When I started compiling my 2013 Cleveland Indians top prospects list, I just opened a word document and started typing out the name of every Tribe farmhand I could think of. After putting together around 25 who could get some consideration on this list, I felt like I was completely forgetting someone.
Such is the tale of Jordan Smith.
Something about Smith, a ninth-round pick out of St. Cloud State University in 2011, piqued my interest. I couldn’t quite say what that was, but he was someone I wanted to keep track of.
Drafted as a third baseman, Smith, 22, has now fully converted to the outfield as he played all his games in right at Lake County last year. Offensively, he impressed me with his second straight year of batting over .300 while maintaining a low strikeout rate (52 in 513 plate appearances) and getting on base. Smith’s overall line at Lake County was .316/.367/.453.
Normally, a prospect having the years Smith just had would generate a lot more buzz around him. So why isn’t he on many other lists?
There are two main issues keeping Smith’s bandwagon at the station. First is that he’s already 22 and has no experience above Low-A. Smith has hit, but he has not hit enough to climb quickly through the system. The second problem with Smith is his lack of power. In order to merit an everyday spot in the lineup at a corner outfield position, Smith would need to hit more than the nine home runs he hit in 2012 and way more than the zero he hit in 2011.
Could Smith develop a power stroke? I don’t see much to say he’s headed in that direction. Smith seemed to eat his Wheaties as a kid to help grow to 6’4″, 205 lbs, but he needs a few more bowls each morning to be a legitimate Major League option. Smith’s age coupled with his lack of both experience and a power stroke, concern me. You can’t say he’s growing into his body, as he’s already 22 and would have done so by now.
Still, the kid can flat-out hit. Ceiling will continue to be the question for Smith, and how high it can go will be tied almost directly to how much power comes from his bat this year. He could join a potentially stacked lineup at High-A Carolina this year alongside Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, Jose Ramirez and Luigi Rodriguez, to name a few. As the underdog of that lineup he could see some better pitches thrown his way, and if he capitalizes on him you can expect to hear some buzz about this kid from Minnesota.