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Diamondbacks 2022 Season Player Reviews: Pavin Smith – Sports Illustrated

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Status: Pre Arb 1, $722,900

Pavin Smith 2022 and Career Stats

Pavin Smith 2022 and Career Stats

Pavin Smith was drafted by the Diamondbacks out of the University of Virginia in the first round, 7th pick overall of the 2017 draft. Given a $5 million dollar signing bonus, at Christmas he paid off his parents mortgage on their family home to show his appreciation to them for getting him to that point in his life. 

No matter how many or how few baseball video highlights Smith ends up with before his career is over, no highlight will ever be able to top that one. 

Smith started out his minor league career as a first baseman, which he played in college. He hit for average, .301 and walked more than he struck out, but failed to homer in 223 PA while playing in Low A-. Promoted to A+ Visalia in 2018 he upped his power total, knocking 11 homers in 503 PA, but his batting average dropped to .255 in the process. 2019 started off slow for Smith in Double-AA. Through May 30th he was hitting just .223 with 4 homers. Then he exploded starting May 31st of that year, showing the promise and potential of a first round pick by hitting .332/.397/.526 with 33 extra base hits in 274 at bats, including eight homers. 

Beginning the 2020 season playing at the team’s alternate site he made his major league debut on September 12th.  He held is own, batting .270 with 1 homer, tallying a .746 OPS or 102 OPS+. Still rookie eligible in 2021, he played a full season, getting into 145 games and batting .267/.328/.404. His 98 OPS+ was slightly below league average however. Asked to play out of position in centerfield and on the outfielder corners, his lack of range and speed were exposed and his negative fielding ratings dragged down his WAR total to -0.2, or below replacement level. 

Entering 2022 Smith needed to show that his bat could carry him enough to overcome defensive deficiencies.  Playing mostly in right field Smith got off to a sluggish start through his first ten games but then caught fire starting with a three hit game on April 19th. From that date through May 6th, a 16 game span he hit .333  with four doubles, three homers and a 1.015 OPS. That raised his season batting line to  .274/.372/.452,  .824 OPS, nearly 100 points above league average. 

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Unfortunately that was the peak of his season. It was a long downward spiral from there forward. Strikeouts became a very large problem. Between May 6th and June 8th he struck out 41 times in just 113 plate appearances. That included multi strikeout games in 13 out of 21 started. In one stretch he struck out multiple times in eight out of 10 games. It was strange to see Smith striking out this much, as making contact was never his issue. 

By June 29th he was batting .207/.291/.362 with just a .652 OPS. He did have nine home runs, but they came at the cost of just 25 walks and 65 strikeouts, dropping his OBP below .300. He was optioned to Triple-A Reno following the game that night. At the time he was sent out, the team intended for his stay there to be very short, perhaps a week or ten days, just to work on some  things and try to get sorted out. 

On July 3rd disaster struck. Diving for a fly ball in the outfield, he suffered a non displaced fracture in his wrist and also suffered ligament damage. He didn’t return to games until September 20th. Recalled to the majors on September 23rd, he got into 10 more games, going 10 for 32 with three doubles and striking out just four times to end his season on a positive note. 


Somewhat ironically perhaps, it was Smith’s improved defense in the outfield that kept his season barely in positive WAR value. He rated as league average in right field and +1 defensive runs saved in limited time at first base. Statcast rated him just -1 runs in right field and +1 at first base. These numbers seemed to be confirmed by the eye test from this observer. While he will never have good foot speed, he learned his routes, and caught every ball he could get to. When Smith returned in September there was no longer  room for him in the outfield however. His playing time allotment came exclusively at DH

2023 Outlook

Smith will still be pre arbitration eligible and has two minor league options remaining. General Manager Mike Hazen still has a lot of belief in Smith. He expressed a lot of satisfaction with Smith’s decision to go play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Smith hit .292 with a .920 OPS in 16 games during his stint with Licey. More to the point, Hazen still has a strong belief in Smith’s bat.

“We think he can really hit. And he controls the strike zone and with his approach we think he has a real chance to impact our team……He’s another one that goes into that group of left handed hitters that could be on the heavier side of a  platoon depending on what else we do “

It seems likely then that if Smith hits well in spring training he has a good chance to earn the left handed side of a DH platoon with Kyle Lewis taking the at bats when a left handed pitcher is on the mound. Smith has a big platoon split in his career and has not hit left handed pitching well. Limiting his exposure to left handed pitching makes sense at this point.

Pavin Smith Career Splits

Pavin Smith Career Platoon Splits

While a left handed platoon DH is not what the team envisioned when they took Smith with their first round pick in 2017, they could still salvage some value out of him before he reaches arbitration wages, potentially as soon as next year depending on his service time. There is no time like the present for Smith’s bat to emerge to justify his General Manager’s faith.

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