White Sox: Should We Expect Kevan Smith to Continue His Ascent?
White Sox catcher enjoying solid first half behind the plate. Should fans expect the catcher to continue improving on the South Side?
For those who haven’t noticed, Chicago White Sox catcher Kevan Smith has been getting a lot of playing time behind the plate this month. Not only is he getting on the field, Smith is hitting better than he ever has in his very short MLB career. Is the increase in performance a result of additional at bats? Let’s take a look.
While Smith hasn’t spent a lot of time in the big leagues, one thing seems clear when evaluating his performance. The more he sees the field, the better he hits. Looking back at his 2016 campaign, Smith was either injured (April and May) or saw sporadic playing time when he was at the MLB level.
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To prove this point, Smith was far from productive that season. He didn’t even bat .150 (.125 to be exact) however no reasonable baseball man can say that is a valuable statistic. Smith only had sixteen official at bats, which he fanned six times and walked zero in. On top of that, both of his hits were singles, but it is far from fair to judge him on so few trips to the plate.
Now, let’s fast forward to the present. With the Sox in a position to give young players a shot, Smith has responded with significant gratitude. His performance has improved as the season has gone along, with his batting average and other key stats improving each month.
In order to show Smith’s improvement, you have to look how poorly he started the 2017 season. At the end of April, Smith was struggling in limited at bats (11), as he recorded only one hit (a double) and no walks. Would Smith be the defense-only catcher that he was supposedly drafted as? No, as his average slowly climbed once he spent more time behind the dish.
Moving into the month of May, Smith became a regular behind the plate mostly due to Geovany Soto heading back to the disabled list. While it was a short stint the first time this year Soto has yet to return since, providing the opportunity for Smith to see consistent playing time. Smith got his chance, and he has not wasted it.
Smith has thrived with consistent playing time so far in 2017. He saw nearly double the amount of at bats in May than he did in his entire career (42 to 27), while collecting nearly four times as many hits (11) than he had for his previous months (three). His batting average became respectable as well, totaling .262 over the course of May.
As the calendar flipped to June, Smith began producing better than anyone ever could have expected. He hit his first career home run, drove in six men, and hit above .300 in 56 at bats (.304 avg. to be exact). Smith also walked for the first time in his career on Wednesday against the New York Yankees, showing he does have the ability to show patience at the plate.
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Overall, while this may be a step forward, Smith still has a long way to go before anyone gives him the starting job for the next several years. He will always be a good defensive catcher, which can be seen by his limited passed ball count (only four so far in 2017) and one career error in 39 games played. Keep in mind Zack Collins is supposed to be the backstop of the future, but baseball is a funny game and things don’t always work out the way you think. At least that is what past history shows, Sox fans.