Mallex Smith is expected to be a key part of the Tampa Bay Rays future. Now, he is getting his chance to be a part of their present.
The Tampa Bay Rays made a statement when they traded Drew Smyly to the Seattle Mariners for Mallex Smith. They improved their outfield defense dramatically, adding another athlete to their roster. The potential of pairing Smith with Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza led to the possibility that the Rays could have the best defensive outfield in the game.
Smith performed well in his brief trial to start the season. In the majors because of Colby Rasmus‘ injury, he produced a solid .261/.346/.304 batting line in his nine games, stealing three bases. Defensively, Smith was worth a run saved, and displayed an impressive ability to track down the ball off the bat. Even though he was sent down to Durham, Smith appeared to be exactly what was expected.
And now, he is back in the majors. Unfortunately, the dream of he and Kiermaier becoming a place where fly balls go to die this time around will not take place, as Smith is taking Kiermaier’s spot in the outfield. However, as Smith is expected to be the starter in center, this is the perfect opportunity to cement his place in the Rays present, as well as their future.
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If nothing else, the next two months will be a chance for the Rays to evaluate what they have in Smith. Yes, he showed well in his initial test with the team, but that was just a nine game sample size. This time, he will have an extended trial, with the Rays hoping that he will prove to be a competent replacement for Kiermaier.
Likewise, for Smith, he is getting a real chance to make an impression. His first trial went fairly well last season, as Smith produced a .238/.316/.365 batting line with 16 steals. He also displayed excellent defense, saving five runs in left and six in center. In a lot of ways, Smith looked like another Kiermaier, both at the plate and in the field.
That is the Rays hope. Smith has a very similar profile in regards to his superlative defense, and with his offensive profile. While Kiermaier may end up with more pop, and Smith with more speed, they could be close to the same player. For now, however, the Rays will take a close approximation.
Mallex Smith is getting a chance to make an impression with the Tampa Bay Rays. In getting that chance, he may prove to be another Kevin Kiermaier.