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Selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, first base prospect Pavin Smith went from the University of Virginia to the short-season Northwest League this summer, and picked up in pro ball right where he’d left off with the Cavaliers. Playing for the Hillsboro Hops, Smith slashed .318/.401/.415/.816 over 195 at-bats across 51 games in 2017, with 15 doubles, two triples, no home runs, 27 walks, and just 24 strikeouts in his debut pro season. (Smith did hit his first pro home run during the Hops’ playoff run in September, though you need not be concerned that he hasn’t put up over-the-fence pop as a professional.)

A smooth fielding first baseman who is a legitimately professional hitter already in his young career, Pavin Smith (DOB: February 6, 1996) figures to move pretty quickly through the low minors with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He could be knocking on the big league door with an ability to make an impact in two calendar years if all goes according to plan. Below, we have a full Pavin Smith scouting report, including a full video of some of his 2017 at-bats, tool grades on his game, and future projection notes for what’s to come in his career.

Pavin Smith, Arizona Diamondbacks — 2017 Scouting Report

Dates observed in 2017: August 1-3

Hit (70)
Exceptional hit tool; definite plus and could become plus-plus through development. Advanced understanding of the strike zone; very little swing-and-miss, natural ability to work deep counts and draw walks. Advanced barrel manipulation; above-average bat speed. Ability to hit to all fields, good hand-eye coordination, and good pitch recognition. Loves to drop the bat head down and in to pull ball to right-center gap. Will make adjustments behind in the count; mature two-strike approach and can hit with authority to all fields; content to take what he’s given. Clean, simple hitter; shot to be an everyday .300+ guy in the big leagues.

Power (45)
Good gap-to-gap power in rookie season with Hillsboro; very little over-the-fence pop in first pro season; I’ve explained extensively why I do not believe that’s a problem (yet). Good feel for manipulating the barrel; above-average bat speed with some natural leverage in his swing. Consistent bat path with decent lift, suggests power could come through as he ages, especially with ample room left to grow into his body. That said, I think it’s a stretch to say he’ll hit 20+ home runs one day. Even though his lack of rookie ball power doesn’t mean he’ll struggle, I don’t think he’s ultimately destined to be an above-average slugger. Lacking physicality even with some raw BP power; expect a gap-to-gap doubles guy and a pure hitter for average with impeccable strike zone awareness. Perhaps a subtle comp difference here, but think more Todd Helton than Paul Goldschmidt

Glove (60)
Soft hands, very advanced feel for his position. Good footwork and glove work going to his right (forehand) side and coming off the base holding runners on. Quick reaction times, fundamentally sound fielder. Situational awareness with clear vision and anticipation of different events. Stays down and through on throws in dirt; reliable short-hop reactions. Will become above-average big league first baseman with feel; shot for legitimate plus tool depending on development.

Arm (50)
Average at best, perhaps even slightly below/fringe-average, but somewhat unimportant considering he’ll likely forever be a first baseman. Clean mechanics, accurate, some carry, but lacks above-average velocity on throws. Won’t be much of an issue for future role, though.

Speed (45)
Had him 4.24 - 4.29 from LHH box to first base. Stole two bases in 2017; won’t ever be much of a base-stealing threat. That said, above-average instincts on the bases, and decent enough overall athleticism to carry him through. Unremarkable tool relative to others, but won’t clog bases or make too many ill-advised mistakes.

Thin, lean frame. Will add muscle. 6’2″ list height may be slightly low, to be honest. Long, lean legs. Plenty of room to add good weight, especially on lower half, to improve leverage. Mature, smart competitor. Comes from a major college program, picked up the intricacies of pro ball and the lifestyle/grind more quickly than most. Natural team leader by example, but not so much vocally. Relatively shy kid; took a while to come out of his shell in Hillsboro. Good-natured, but far from a rah-rah type; quiet confidence. Observes surroundings very well and should quickly pick up other pro ball intricacies from more experienced players as he goes. Intensity stays beneath the surface; rarely shows emotion on the field.  

Pavin Smith Scouting Report, Arizona Diamondbacks — 2017 Game Video

Pavin Smith Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

Arguably the best hitter in the college game when he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in June, all Pavin Smith did once he got to pro ball was hit, hit, and hit some more. I talked to him about that back in August, and he indicated the pro ball adjustment was a relatively smooth one, at least so far in Hillsboro. The Diamondbacks will likely be aggressive with him in 2018, and for good reason: Smith has a shot to race through the minors because he flat-out knows how to get the barrel on the ball, and his exceptional hand-eye coordination and high contact rates are paced equally with a mature approach at the plate and enough coverage to hit the ball with authority to all fields.

He’s not a prototypical corner infielder in today’s game, though, because I don’t think he’ll ever show above-average power numbers. That’ll scare away some fantasy baseball players and might cool off some baseball bloggers who try to analyze a stat line, but seriously — watch this kid hit, whether in batting practice or against live pitching. He has a natural feel for the barrel with manipulation, and enough bat speed to hit premium pitching at higher levels. I’ll stop short of going so far as to liken him to Dominic Smith, but Pavin Smith is in that same vein: a true, pure hitter who should flirt with .300 everywhere he goes while playing solid defense at first base. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a pretty good first baseman right now, and so maybe Smith gets shipped elsewhere before he hits the big leagues, but whatever the case he’s going to have a significant big league impact soon.

Pavin Smith Scouting Report — Future Projection

In the near-term, I’d love to see the Arizona Diamondbacks get aggressive with Pavin Smith and send him to High-A Visalia for 2018. Of course, there’s a selfish desire there, as I’d be able to get a season-long look at him in the California League were that to happen, but beyond my personal hopes I think Smith will quickly prove too advanced for Low-A pitching and need a bigger challenge. Beyond that, he’d be on track to become a first-baseman-of-the-future type if not for the presence of Goldschmidt in Arizona. I wonder what that’ll mean for Smith, who could likely play left field well enough if need be, but is undoubtedly a natural first baseman. It’s worth tracking over the next few trade deadlines to see if he may better be used as a very valuable trade chip depending on whether the Diamondbacks are in contention, and considering he’s blocked at first base by Goldschmidt.

But whether with the Arizona Diamondbacks or elsewhere, there’s little doubt in my mind Pavin Smith has the ability to become a quality first-division everyday first baseman. No, he may never hit for significant power—especially relative to his position—but his hit tool is good enough to make up for that, and the UVA product will quickly prove himself valuable as an everyday first baseman even without the pop. Before long, he’ll reach the big leagues and hit for average all the way there.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Above-average/fringe-plus everyday starting first baseman (55/60)

MLB ETA: 2020


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Bobby DeMuro

Bobby DeMuro is the founder of Baseball Census. A former college and independent league baseball player, he now watches more than 200 games a year working full time for the site. You can follow him on Twitter @BobbyDeMuro for more.

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