We have all heard of the saying that speed kills. In the case of the Rays speedster Mallex Smith, that phrase is certainly valid.
Mallex Smith is not going to be a premier slugger. He has but one extra base hit in his 22 plate appearances this season, after tallying just 14 extra base hits last year. Chances are, most doubles and triples that Smith ends up with will be due to his impressive speed, legging out those extra bases instead of hammering the ball into the gaps.
That speed has already served Smith well in the early part of his Rays career. He has been perfect on his three stolen base attempts thus far, while his solid batting eye lends to the hope that Smith could become a leadoff hitter at some point in the future. Smith has also lived up to his reputation as a stellar defensive player, tracking down virtually anything hit to left as his speed has also played up in the outfield.
Naturally, the Rays have taken notice. That impressive speed has been dubbed “The Mallex Effect,” challenging the opposition in all facets of the game. As Smith owns two of the top five fastest times to first this year, it is easy to see why his speed would be making such an impact upon everyone.
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The Blue Jays, in particular, have to be cognizant of Smith’s speed. Those aforementioned two fastest times came in the Rays series against Toronto, including his Saturday performance where Smith was 2-2 with three walks and two steals.
It is that game breaking dynamic that makes Smith such an interesting player. If he can make solid contact consistently, Smith would be exactly what the Rays have been seeking atop their lineup. The problem is that, thus far, he has been unable to do so. While he has just three strikeouts in those 22 plate appearances, Smith has been unable to really square up the ball.
With that being that case, it is understandable why the Rays are likely to move him back to Durham once Colby Rasmus is able to return to the lineup. Although Smith could perform well as a fourth outfielder now, the Rays are looking at him as being a key part of the future. He needs those regular at bats, as well as a bit more seasoning, to get there.
Mallex Smith is attracting plenty of notice for his speed already. Once he puts together the rest of his offensive game, he could truly become something special.