When Yankees coaches and evaluators talk about the best leaders in the farm system, a few names consistently come up. Shortstop Josh Smith is one of them.
“Super mature,” hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson said. “Not an overly loud leader. Speaks when he needs to and definitely leads by example . . . Just about any of the coaches offer his name up as being in that top three to five leaders from a position player standpoint.”
The Yankees hope his teammates follow the 23-year-old Smith’s lead in terms of on-field production, too.
Smith had been one of the most impressive infielders in the organization, hitting .342/.463/.685 with eight home runs and 14 stolen bases through 30 games between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson.
The Yankees drafted the 5-foot-10, 172-pound Smith in the second round in 2019 out of Louisiana State.
Lawson credits Smith’s work ethic and his focus on improving what he already does best—making consistent hard contact—for his early success and quick promotion after starting the season on the injured list with a hand injury.
“It’s been about running with his strengths and not trying to turn him into something he isn’t,” Lawson said. “He’s a guy who plays great defense at a premier position. He’s a guy who, at minimum, you know what you’re going to get out of him every day at the plate.
“Now, this year, he’s stepped it up even further.”
This season, Smith—a lefthanded hitter—has started to notch exit velocities as high as 107 mph.
A big part of his play has been an increased attention to detail. Since he wasn’t invited to the alternate training site in 2020, Smith had to work out on his own.
Now, he’s back with Yankees instructors who are giving him constant feedback, even between swings in the batting cage. Smith eats it up.
“It’s something to be very excited about, especially with how he squares the ball up so consistently that now his top-end exit velocity is climbing,” Lawson said.
— Shortstop Anthony Volpe, the Yankees’ 2019 first-rounder out of Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., has stood out to scouts and evaluators who note the “edge” with which the 20-year-old brings to seemingly every pitch at Low-A Tampa, where he had hit .310 with nine homers, 41 RBIs and a 1.059 OPS through 43 games.
— An intensified pregame workout regimen has been a big key to shortstop Hoy Jun Park’s breakout at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Lawson said.
“It doesn’t have to be a massive amount of reps,” the hitting coordinator said. “But his focus and his purpose behind each one of those reps has been really, really good this year.”
Lawson called him “a coach’s dream” to work with.