C’s Rewind – Marcus Stroman’s 1st Win July 22/2012

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Vancouver Canadians, C's RewindToronto Blue Jays righthander Marcus Stroman is the talk of the baseball world after no-hitting Puerto Rico for six innings in the USA’s 8-0 victory in the World Baseball Classic championship game at Dodger Stadium. So it’s only fitting that in this edition of C’s Rewind, we turn back the clock to exactly four years and eight months ago when the MVP of the WBC earned his first W in the pro ranks with the C’s.

The Vancouver Canadians found themselves playing out the string in the first half of the Northwest League season as the Everett AquaSox clinched the first-half West Division title. Still, the C’s were looking to build momentum heading into the second half as they hosted the Spokane Indians for a five-game series at Nat Bailey Stadium.

Stroman, the 22nd pick of the 2012 draft from Duke University, reported to Vancouver July 12 after getting a $1.8 million bonus from the Blue Jays nine days earlier. The 5-foot-8 righty had to yet to pitch on Canadian soil as his first three appearances came on the road, pitching exclusively in relief during his first pro season.

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Thunder Bay, Ontario native and former UBC Thunderbird Eric Brown got the start for Vancouver. Going for Spokane was the Texas Rangers’ 48th round draft pick in 2011 C.J. Edwards, now known as Carl Edwards Jr. or The String Bean Slinger.

Spokane got to Brown for a run in the first by with four consecutive singles by Hirotoshi OnakaGabriel RoaCam Schiller and Royce Bolinger to start the game. Brown battled back and held the visitors to just the one run by retiring the next three hitters in a row, striking out future big leaguer Ryan Rua in the process.

The C’s looked to even the score in their half of the first as Ian Parmley led off with an infield single to second. Jorge Flores would take one for the team and both he and Parmley would advance 90 feet on a groundout by Nick Baligod. That was the last time the C’s would put the ball in play as Edwards struck out Balbino Fuenmayor and Jason Leblebijian to end the inning. In fact, Edwards whiffed Carlos Ramirez, Kellen Sweeney and Tucker Frawley in the second and Daniel Arcila in the third to give him six K’s in a row. After Spokane added another run off Brown in the third, that 2-0 lead was looking good for the visitors as the future Chicago Cubs World Series winner finished off his five-inning outing by sitting down 15 in a row.

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The C’s would run up against another future big leaguer in Alec Asher as the trade chip for Cole Hamels held Vancouver to just one Fuenmayor single over two frames. Jonathan Lucas did his part to keep the C’s in the game as he delivered three shutout innings of three-hit ball, overcoming a pair of leadoff singles in the fifth and sixth and a two-out base hit in the seventh.

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Then it was time for the Stro Show! Stroman entered the game and rung up Barrett Serrato for a called strike three. After inducing a Patrick Cantwell grounder to third, the former Duke Blue Devil got Joe Maloney looking for a 1-2-3 frame.

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The afterglow of the Stro-Show woke up the C’s bats as they loaded up the bases on walks by Sweeney and Parmley to sandwich an Arcila single against new Spokane reliever Josh McElwee. Flores got his revenge for being hit by a pitch with a two-run single to center to score Sweeney and Arcila, tying the game at 2-2. Baligod walked to load the bases and McElwee was pulled in favour of Carlos Melo but he couldn’t stop Vancouver’s momentum either as Fuenmayor socked a two-run double off the center field wall to score Parmley and Flores to put the C’s ahead by two. Sweeney would single home Baligod to complete the five-run rally.

The offence woke up in time to give Stroman a chance to win his first ever game in the pros and the Medford, New York native did not disappoint. He retired Saquan Johnson on a lineout to Parmley in center before striking out Onaka and getting Roa to ground out to Flores at short to end the ball game, giving the C’s a 5-2 victory.

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The pilot episode of The Stro Show at The Nat was a hit for the C’s back in 2012. Here’s hoping Season Six finishes with Stroman helping the Toronto Blue Jays to a World Series championship in 2017.

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C’s Where Are They Now – The Two Tuckers

cs_where_nowThe Vancouver Canadians had a battery of Tuckers during the 2012 campaign. When the two played catch together in the same game, good things tended to happen as they played a role in helping the C’s repeat as back-to-back Northwest League champions.

The Tucker on the mound was Tucker Donahue, a 6-foot-2 right-handed reliever who was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Stetson University product was armed with a fastball that reportedly hit 97 miles per hour.

The Tucker behind the plate was Tucker Frawley, a 6-foot-1 catcher taken four rounds later by the Jays from Coastal Carolina University. His given name is Harrison Tucker Frawley according to his bio page but he decided to go by Tucker instead. Frawley was named first team All-Big South catcher and was one of 12 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award as college baseball’s top backstop.

Both players received just $5,000 signing bonuses as the Blue Jays and the 29 other major league teams had to find ways to deal with new bonus pool amounts that were assigned to each team for the first 10 rounds of the draft. In order to meet the signing demands of higher-profile players such as pitchers Marcus Stroman, Matt Smoral and Chase De Jong, infielder Mitch Nay and outfielder Anthony Alford, the Jays decided to select senior college players with no leverage as they were unable to go back into the draft. Donahue was drafted the year before by the Texas Rangers in the 38th round but he elected to go back to Stetson for his senior season.

Both Donahue and Frawley signed with the Jays on June 11, 2012 and reported to Vancouver four days later. Donahue was the first to see action as he made an appearance in the team’s second game of the year in Spokane. The good news was the C’s won that game 11-4. The bad news was Donahue gave up all four runs without getting an out. The Donahue-Frawley combo would make its collective debut two days later in the Canadians home opener June 20. Frawley went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored while Donahue pitched two innings of one-run ball on two hits but the C’s fell to Tri-City 5-3.

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The Tucker Duo’s next appearance resulted in Donahue’s first professional win June 24 as he blanked the Dust Devils over two innings in an extra-innings walk-off victory over the Tri-City Dust Devils. Frawley was 0-for-2 but he did draw a pair of walks. The two would not appear in the same game again until July 20 and that resulted in another first for Donahue. The Coral Springs, Florida native earned his first professional save as he struck out three over two shutout frames to preserve a 4-0 win at home against the Spokane Indians. Frawley contributed a base on balls in his four plate appearances.

The C’s rolled the dice again with the Two Tuckers three days later and it resulted in Donahue’s second win of the year with 1-2/3 scoreless frames in a 12-7 triumph over Spokane. Frawley chipped in with a base hit, a run batted in and a run scored.

Frawley enjoyed more success when the two appeared again in the same game July 27 in Everett. The former Chanticleer had an RBI single and scored a run and Donahue earned a hold to help the C’s get by the AquaSox 4-3. The Donahue-Frawley tandem’s winning streak continued against the Eugene Emeralds in Oregon August 4 as Donahue stranded a runner for another hold by pitching one-third of a scoreless inning while Frawley stole a base and scored a run in an 8-5 win. The good times for the two ended when Donahue was saddled with the loss and Frawley went 0-for-3 three days later in Tri-City.

The duo bounced back August 10 in Tri-City when Donahue spun a scoreless frame and Frawley went 1-for-5 with an RBI as the C’s pounded the Dust Devils 10-4. One week later, Donahue got his third win of the year with Frawley donning the tools of ignorance again in a 14-3 beatdown of Everett at Nat Bailey Stadium. Donahue was nicked for an unearned run in his one-inning stint but Frawley went 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI.

The two’s winning ways continued August 20 on the road against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes as the C’s came away with a 4-1 victory in which Frawley had a base hit. That would be the last time the two Tuckers worked as a battery on the mound. The two would appear in the memorable Game 1 victory of the Northwest League final against the Boise Hawks but not as a tandem as Frawley entered the game after Donahue was replaced.

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It was in the post-season that Frawley grabbed center stage. He recorded a hit in all five of Vancouver’s playoff games and batted. 500 with a home run and five RBI. He belted a two-run homer in the third and deciding game in Boise to help the C’s outslug the Hawks 12-9 to keep the Bob Freitas trophy north of the border for another year.

An article by C’s broadcaster Rob Fai states the convincing case that Frawley was the C’s MVP in the playoffs.

What didn’t go into the box score was Frawley’s defensive moments that included getting slammed at home plate, not once, but twice as Boise tried to produce runs – both Hawks runners out at home as Frawley wouldn’t let the ball drop loose despite taking two significant blows.

Next to Frawley’s playoff exploits, Frawley’s other big accomplishment was being behind the plate for Marcus Stroman‘s first professional victory as the C’s defeated Spokane 5-2 at Nat Bailey Stadium July 22.

Despite ending 2012 in a blaze of glory, that turned out to be it for Frawley and his playing career. Battling Dan Klein, Derrick Chung and Santiago Nessy for playing time behind the dish, Frawley’s playing time was inconsistent as he finished with a .185/.280/.185 batting line with eight RBI in 81 at-bats. At last word, Frawley was a student assistant with his alma mater Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

Donahue – who was 3-2 with a 5.26 ERA and a save for Vancouver – reported to Lansing in 2013 but struggled with a 3-3 mark and a 6.09 ERA. He spent most of August on the disabled list before returning late in the year but he gave up runs in his last three appearances of the year. Donahue would be released by the Blue Jays the following April. His Twitter account @TuckeRyan says he is working as an investment analyst in Miami.

When analyzing what it takes to be a champion, every little bit helps and the efforts of Tuckers Donahue and Frawley helped play a part in keeping the 2012 Vancouver Canadians on top of the Northwest League mountain for a second straight season.

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C’s Alumni Update – 30* former Vancouver Canadians have played for Blue Jays this spring

cs_alumni_updateWith two weeks left to go until Opening Day, quite a few former Vancouver Canadians are continuing to make their presence felt in Dunedin with the Toronto Blue Jays. According to my math, 29 players who have won Vancouver uniforms during its affiliation with Toronto have seen Grapefruit League action with the parent club this spring. You could make the case that the number is actually 30 as reliever Bo Schultz pitched in Vancouver but the C’s were affiliated with the Oakland A’s during the 2009 campaign.

jb_woodman_runningJ.B. Woodman collected his first and first walk of the spring and added an outfield assist in Bradenton Sunday.

Sunday afternoon featured some former C’s making an impact during the Blue Jays 11-11 tie with the Pirates in Bradenton. Rowdy Tellez was 1-for-2 with a run scored, Jason Leblebijian scored twice and knocked in a run after entering the game as a pinch-runner, D.J. Davis singled, scored and drove in a pair and Jon Berti was 1-for-3 with a run scored. The best all-around performance came from J.B. Woodman as the former Ole Miss Rebel tripled, walked and earned an assist from right field by cutting down Pirates prospect Austin Meadows on the basepaths with help from Tellez and Leblebijian on a 9-3-6-3 play in the ninth to help preserve the tie.

jason_leblebijianJason Leblebijian scored twice and drove in a run in Bradenton Sunday.

On the negative side, Matt Dermody was unable to preserve an 11-8 lead in the ninth as he was charged with three runs in two-thirds of an inning, spoiling his earned run average in the process. Cavan Biggio whiffed in his two times up at the plate.

Breaking down the list, 21 position players have gotten into at least one game with the Jays this spring. Parentheses indicate the year the player was in Vancouver.

  • Jonathan Davis (2014) – 1/2, .500 BA
  • Christian Lopes (2012) – 2/5, .400 BA
  • Kevin Pillar (2011) – 13/34, .353 BA
  • D.J. Davis (2012) – 1/3, .333 BA
  • Gunnar Heidt (2014, 2015) – 1/3, .333 BA
  • Richard Urena (2014) – 8/25, .320 BA, .393 OBP
  • Jon Berti (2011) – 9/33, .273 BA, .368 OBP, 2 SB
  • Rowdy Tellez (2014) – 8/30, .267 BA, .371 OBP
  • Dalton Pompey (2012) – 2/9, .222 BA, 1 HR
  • Josh Palacios (2016) – 1/5, 1 HR, 3 R
  • Dwight Smith Jr. (2012) – 4/20, .200 BA, 6 RBI
  • Ryan McBroom (2014) – 1/7, .143 BA, 1 HR
  • J.B Woodman (2016) – 1/10, .100 BA, 2 RBI
  • Cavan Biggio (2016) – 0/3, .000 BA
  • Roemon Fields (2014) – 0/3, .000 BA, 1 RBI, 1 SB
  • Yeltsin Gudino (2016) – 0/3, .000 BA
  • Jason Leblebijian (2012/2013) – 0/4, .000 BA, 1 RBI, 2 BB
  • Shane Opitz (2011) – 0/5, .000 BA
  • Ian Parmley (2012/2013) – 0/3, .000 BA
  • Mattingly Romanin (2016) – 0/1, .000 BA

On the pitching side, eight hurlers with C’s connections have appeared in at least one game with Toronto.

  • Jose Fernandez (2014) – 1.o IP, 1-2 BB/K, 0.00 ERA
  • Roberto Osuna (2012)-  3.0 IP, 1-5 BB/K, 0.00 ERA
  • Justin Shafer (2014) – 1.o IP, 1-1 BB/K, 0.00 ERA (0-1)
  • Tim Mayza (2014) – 5.1 IP, 1-7 BB/K, 1.69 ERA
  • Wil Browning (2012) – 4.2 IP, 2-5 BB/K 1.93 ERA
  • Marcus Storman (2012) – 4.2 IP, 0-6 BB/K, 1.93 ERA
  • Ryan Borucki (2014, 2015) – 4.0 IP, 2-3 BB/K, 2.25 ERA
  • Matt Dermody (2013) – 6.0 IP, 1-4 BB/K, 4.50 ERA
  • Aaron Sanchez (2011) – 4.0IP, 2-4 BB/K, 11.25 ERA

Jay Blue of Blue Jays From Away is down at Dunedin keeping track of the goings on at minor league camp. As far as former C’s go, 2014 C’s catcher Max Pentecost has been spotted taking ground balls at first base, 2012 pitcher Taylor Cole has a shoulder impingement, 2015 C’s outfielder Andrew Guillotte is spending time at second base and Shane Opitz and Mattingly Romanin have been seen wearing catching gear. Also, Mitch Nay of the 2013 C’s squad has been seen taking swings as he tries to get back after missing all of 2016 due to injury. Nay has seen his prospect stock tumble and was rumoured to be on his way to Cincinnati in the aborted Jay Bruce/Michael Saunders trade last year.

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C’s Where Are They Now – Chuck Ghysels

cs_where_nowOur inaugural edition of C’s Where Are They Now on C’s Plus Baseball takes a look at the man who may have the best Twitter handle in baseball – @CloserMentality Chuck Ghysels – the closer of the 2013 Vancouver Canadians. There’s no question he showed a closer’s mentality, getting the job done more often that not when he came out of the bullpen. C’s fans will never forget his lively delivery or his animated celebration of finishing out ball games at Nat Bailey Stadium.

The 5-foot-11 righthander came to the Toronto Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent on June 11, 2012.  The native of Springboro, Ohio had a successful high school career in his hometown by winning league MVP honours in 2006 and earning first-team All-State honours in 2007 and 2008, culminating into a league championship in his senior year.

Ghysels remained in Ohio for the start of his collegiate career with Dayton in 2009. He split time as a starter and reliever, posting a record of 3-2 with a 5.63 ERA and K and BB rates of 9.4 and 7.0 respectively. One highlight was earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honours for earning two of his three victories during that seven-day span.

Ghysels transferred to Trail Lincoln College in Robinson, Illinois for his sophomore season in 2010. Used strictly out of the bullpen, he won nine of his 10 decisions with a 1.37 ERA, striking out 13.3 batters per nine innings while walking 4.1 per nine. Those numbers earned him an honourable mention JUCO All-American. Baseball America had this to say about his breakout campaign.

…the 5-foot-10, 200-pound righthander has a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 95. There’s effort in his delivery, though his arm strength should get him drafted in the middle rounds. He also has a good curveball but doesn’t always throw it for strikes. After spending his freshman season at Dayton, Ghysels dominated the Illinois juco ranks, finishing among the national leaders with 117 strikeouts in 79 innings. He threw a five-inning no-hitter against Southwestern Illinois in a sectional playoff game and fanned 13 in a nine-inning no-decision in regionals.

He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 36th round in 2010 but opted to go to Maryland for his junior year instead in 2011. Despite struggling with a 3-4 record, a 5.47 earned run average and a walk rate of 8.1 per nine innings with the Terrapins, he did strike out 10.4 batters per nine in his junior season. His 59 strikeouts placed him second on the Terps. Ghysels split his time between the rotation and the bullpen with nine starts and eight relief appearances. He then played summer ball with the Hamilton Joes of the Great Lakes Collegiate League and posted a 1.98 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP while ringing up 62 batters in 50 innings.

Ghysels pitched off a professional mound for the first time with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays on June 20, 2012 and tossed two scoreless innings with two whiffs and a walk against the Yankees. He had a 1.59 ERA after his first 10 days as a pro but he struggled to a 5.23 mark in July. His first professional save came July 16 against the Tigers as he started to turn his season around. Ghysels strung together seven scoreless one-inning appearances in late July and early August and ended the year with six consecutive spotless games covering 6-1/3 frames. The last two of those outings came with the Dunedin Blue Jays in he which struck out six in two one-inning stints, including five in his season finale September 2. Overall, it was a solid beginning for Ghysels as he struck out 48 batters and walked just seven in 28-2/3 innings while saving seven games.

Ghysels began 2013 in the Midwest League and earned the save in his season debut  in Lake County April 5 despite an unearned run on two hits and a walk in his one inning of work. He followed that up with a scoreless frame in Bowling Green three days later. He was unscored upon in eight of his 14 outings but his ERA took a beating as it went up to 5.09. Ghysels won two of three decisions, earning the wins in his last two appearances. He also picked up three saves and struck out 19 batters over 17-2/3 innings but he worked the count to ball four 14 times. The Jays decided to send Ghysels to work on his pitches in extended Spring Training in Dunedin. He contributed a shutout inning with the D-Jays on June 11 before reporting to Vancouver.

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His Northwest League tenure did not get off to the best of starts as he was scored upon in his first three appearances but he did notch a save in Salem-Keizer June 21. He began to settle into his role as a key reliever in the C’s bullpen as he ran off four straight scoreless innings in late June and early July, earning two saves in the process. He followed that up with six scoreless outings in a seven-outing span later in July that saw him go three-for-three in save opportunites.

Ghysels’ first appearance in August did not go so well for him personally but everything did work out in the end. He was only scored upon one more time in the month as he put up zeros in 10 of his 12 appearances and made good on five of his six save opportunites, including his last four in a row. His K-BB total was an impressive 51-13 in 29-1/3 innings as he recorded an ERA of 2.15 to go along with 11 saves.

Ghysels continued to excel in the playoffs as he finished off the Everett AquaSox with a shutout ninth in Game 1 of the divisional final at the Nat. He was called upon in relief in Game 2 in the Northwest League final and managed to work his way out of a bases-loaded situation with two crucial outs in the eighth inning against the Boise Hawks.

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Ghysels’ next appearance put an exclamation point on his and the Canadians season as he struck out the first two batters before inducing a 6-3 groundout in the ninth inning to set off a celebration of the C’s back-to-back-to-back championships.

That glorious night of September 8, 2013 would turn out to be Ghysels’ last action with the Blue Jays organization as he would be released by Toronto on March 28, 2014. He broke the news of his release on his Twitter account. Despite the disappointing news, he still looked back on his time with Vancouver fondly.

chuck_ghysels_tweet

Ghysels continued to play ball at the independent level in 2014 with the Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League for a brief stint before catching on with the Traverse City Beach Bums. Despite 141 strikeouts over 97-1/3 innings and an ERA just above three over two seasons with Traverse City, it wasn’t enough to convince any of the 30 major league clubs to give him another shot in affiliated ball.

Nowadays, Ghysels is working as an instructor with Home Field Instruction in Franklin, Ohio where he helps run baseball camps and clinics. All the best to Chuck Ghysels in his future endeavors and thanks for the memories!

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C’s Alumni Update – Dwight Smith Jr.

cs_alumni_updateDwight Smith Jr. is about to begin his sixth season in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system and hopes 2017 will be the year he tells his father he’s a major leaguer too. The son of former Chicago Cubs/California Angels/Baltimore Orioles/Atlanta Braves outfielder Dwight Smith was the reason the Jays were not shut out in Grapefruit League action, driving in both runs in an 8-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte Sunday.

The younger Smith was a supplemental first round pick of the Blue Jays in the 2011 draft. The 53rd overall pick from McIntosh High School in McIntosh, Georgia turned down a scholarship from Georgia Tech and signed for an above-slot bonus of $800,000. The Jays essentially paid another $500,000 on top of that for the right to select the Peachtree City, Georgia native. The Blue Jays got the pick as compensation from the Colorado Rockies who signed free-agent catcher Miguel Olivo on January 4, 2010. The Dominican backstop was sent to Toronto by Colorado two months earlier as part of a conditional deal. The Jays turned down a $2.5 million option to sign Olivo, buying him out for a half-million dollars instead.

Smith debuted with the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2012 and put together a six-game hitting streak after going hitless in his first two contests. The 5-foot-11 outfielder homered on consecutive nights in the last two games of that stretch in Kingsport June 29 and June 30. A 3-for-5 game in Pulaski July 12 pushed Smith’s batting average to .261 but despite nine multi-hit efforts in July and four home runs, nine doubles and one triple overall, his batting line sagged to .226/.289/.340 with the Bluef-Jays.

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Smith was then promoted to Vancouver August 9 and joined the C’s in Tri-City that night where he struck out in a pinch-hit appearance. He did collect two hits the next night, contributing a double and two runs batted in a 10-4 win over the Dust Devils. Smith also got an outfield assist by cutting down a runner at second base from left field. He went 0-for-4 in his Nat Bailey Stadium debut against the Yakima Bears August 11 before collecting his first hit on Canadian soil August 12.

Smith did put together a four-game hit streak with the C’s. He had a pair of multi-hit games against the Boise Hawks on August 22 and August 26, getting on base all four times in the latter game with two hits and two walks. Those two highs were matched by pair of lows in a platinum sombrero August 23 and a 0-for-15 skid to end the regular season, dropping his slash stats to .175/.254/.254 without a home run.

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Smith started just one game in the 2012 playoffs as first round pick D.J. Davis was promoted from Bluefield in the regular season’s final week. Smith’s biggest contribution came in the eighth inning of the third and deciding game of the Northwest League final. He came off the bench to draw the first of two walks and scored the tying run as part of a seven-run rally to help Vancouver win its second straight championship against the Boise Hawks in Idaho.

He was rated the Blue Jays #18 prospect according to Batter’s Box after the 2012 season. Here is what was said about him in his prospect review.

The younger Smith was lauded for his hitting ability before the 2011 draft, with Baseball America touting his batting stroke as one of the best in his draft class.  Scouts praised his bat speed and his ability to keep his bat in the hitting zone.  Smith Jr, who adopted a leg kick at the suggestion of his father, was also lauded for his hitting approach to all fields and being able to drive the ball into the gaps.  The elder Smith believes his son will have more power and speed that he did in his career, which saw him bat .275 with the Cubs, Angels, Orioles and Braves.

Despite his struggles in short-season ball, Smith would thrive in his introduction to full-season action with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2013 after spending time in extended spring training. He told the Toronto Observer he was dealing with a wrist injury heading into spring training that year but he managed to hit .284/.365/.388 with seven home runs, 46 runs batted in and 25 stolen bases – 24 more than his rookie season. He had 11 multi-hit contests, including five three-hit games in August.

Smith started to tap into his power with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2014 with a .453 slugging percentage while matching his Lansing batting average of .284 and nearly the same OBP at .363. On Opening Day, he went 4-for-5 in a 7-0 win over Clearwater April 3. Three days later, he belted two homers against a rehabbing Cole Hamels in Clearwater with his father in attendance. That performance was among five multi-hit games in a row. He strung together a 15 game on-base streak that included nine in a row with at least one hit spanning late June and early July. Smith then compiled a 10-game hit streak later in July but missed some time due to injury in late July and early August. He went deep 12 times and had 48 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases to help him earn mid-season and post-season Florida State League All-Star berths. Smith also won the R. Howard Webster Award as Dunedin’s most valuable player. He finished up the year in the Arizona Fall League by hitting .262 in 11 games. He also played second base with the Mesa Solar Sox for a couple of games and did not commit an error but Smith has been in the outfield grass ever since.

The 2015 season saw Smith take a step back with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He suffered a power outage by homering just seven times and slugging .376 while hitting .265 and reaching base at a .335 clip. His running game stalled too by swiping just four bases in seven attempts. The left-handed hitter started off the year like gangbusters in April by reeling off a 16-game hitting streak and extending his on-base streak to 25 games into early May. He would struggle in June and July by batting .231 and .242 respectively before improving to .264 in August and .290 in September.  Smith was left exposed for the Rule 5 draft but nobody decided to take a chance on him.

Smith repeated Double-A again in 2016 and he set career highs in home runs with 15 and RBI with 74. His matched last year’s batting average of .265 with just a slight dip in OBP at .332. After batting .321 in April of 2015, he was ice cold in April of 2016 with a .145 BA and a .391 OPS. He was 0-for-15 during one stretch that left his batting average below .100.

Smith’s bat came back to life in May as hit .333 with a .935 OPS while clubbing four dingers. Two of those bombs came May 22nd in a home victory against the Hartford Yard Goats to help him earn Eastern League Player of the Week honours. He tailed off to a .257 batting average in June and a .229 July before bouncing back with a .279 August and a .444 September. Smith also managed 12 stolen bases but was caught seven times. One positive at least for Smith was that he showed no discernible lefty/right (.258/.268 batting average) or home/away (.268/.263 BA) splits.

MLB.com rated Smith as the Blue Jays #26 prospect in 2016, saying “he has a knack for hitting, albeit with below-average power. He stands out most for his patient approach and consistent on-base skills, while his quick swing and knowledge of the strike zone make him a difficult out.” He was assigned a 50 grade as a runner and fielder, a 45 grade for hitting and throwing and 40 for his power.

With two full seasons at Double-A, it would stand to reason that the Blue Jays will send Smith to Triple-A Buffalo to begin the 2017 campaign. Having spent most of last season in left field, the 24 year-old could really use a strong start with the Herd and throw his hat into the ring of Toronto’s crowded seven-spot situation.

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