Kevin Smith Shows Resiliency

A productive summer in the Cape Cod League in 2016 seemed to have positioned shortstop Kevin Smith well for the 2017 draft.

Smith hit .301 in the notorious pitcher’s league, yet scouts questioned his bat, especially after a modest junior at Maryland.

By the time the draft came around, Smith’s stock dropped all the way to the fourth round, where the Blue Jays were all too happy to pick him at No. 129 overall. Doug Witt, their area scout at the time, and regional crosschecker Tim Rooney stuck with Smith, believing in the person as much as the ability.

“A lot of credit has to go Doug Witt,” scouting director Steve Sanders said. “The big thing is keeping in mind some of the positives that we saw over the summer, looking for some of the positives in the struggles. We saw some resiliency in Kevin.

“Seeing a player at that level go through some type of struggle can actually tell you a lot about him, both in terms of his ability to make adjustments and also in terms of his baseball IQ.

“Kevin is a very cerebral hitter. We had a chance to talk to him about his approach going into the year (and) see him try to implement that on the field. When we got into the draft room, we really tried to look at the whole body of work. We felt really comfortable that he had a chance to bounce back and take off in our environment.”

Smith has done precisely that, ranking at No .91 on the Top 100 Prospects this spring. And in watching his progress, the Blue Jays have been rewarded for trusting the work of their scout, and trusting in a player’s dedication to get better.

Smith will need to show that same resiliency to dig out of an early hole at Double-A New Hampshire. Through 19 games he hit .188/.217/.313 with three walks and 24 strikeouts.

The selection of Smith also offered a reminder of why it’s crucial to be “as open-minded as we can and not look at any one portion of the player or his performance in a vacuum,” Sanders said. “We try to be considerate of all the information. We did that with Kevin. We continue to try to do that with every player.”

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