Tampa Bay Rays: Who Gets the Next Long Term Deal?
In a lot of ways, Mallex Smith may develop into another Kevin Kiermaier type of player, at least with the glove.
Smith certainly held his own last season with the glove. He spent approximately a third of the 2016 season with the Braves, and was credited with seven runs saved defensively. Primarily splitting his time between center and left, Smith was more than capable of handling either spot. Despite being a center fielder for most of his career, he will be slotted in left with the Rays, giving them two excellent defensive outfielders.
It is also possible that Smith can develop into the Rays leadoff hitter of the future. He does not have much power, with just 12 home runs in five minor league seasons, but Smith does possess impressive speed, stealing 229 bases. In his brief stint in the Majors, Smith was overwhelmed at times, but still showed flashes of the player he could be. He showed an above average batting eye, drawing a walk in 9.3% of his plate appearances, while stealing 16 bases and hitting four triples.
Should his offensive production continue to develop, Smith could be the perfect leadoff hitter. He already has a solid batting eye, and his speed will be a true asset on the basepaths. Maybe he will not develop the same sort of power, but he could become another Kiermaier type of player in a couple of years.
To succeed in the long haul, the Tampa Bay Rays need to retain those young players that could develop into solid Major League pieces. Mallex Smith is one of those players that could be worth the gamble.