The Justin Upton trade continues to look solid for the Braves. Even though the slugger Upton is doing his thing for the Padres in the last year of his contract (.284 BA, 11 HR, 29 RBI), Atlanta’s return is doing very well.
Particularly outfielder Mallex Smith, who is practically becoming a story in Double-A Mississippi. Smith was 3-4 Friday night in Jacksonville, with two runs scored and a stolen base (13).
Smith is now hitting .348 with a .385 on base percentage. He has two home runs, 16 RBI, four doubles and one triple. His average is the second best in the Southern League, while his OBP is ninth best.
In a way, Smith’s success should not be much of a surprise. He hit .310 last season with two of San Diego’s minor league teams, along with a .403 on base percentage. His career batting average is now .296 with a .384 OBP.
Smith has been very effective in the month of May, hitting .370 with a .418 on base percentage. The left-handed hitter has been great against southpaw pitchers, with a .429 batting average and a .467 OBP. Hopefully that stat would end any belief by a manager to platoon the young Smith once he makes his major league debut.
Smith just turned 22 on May 6. There has already been speculation the Braves may envision Smith getting a shot in center field as early as next season. If he continues to hit this well in the Southern League, it might be hard to fight that temptation. Smith might be penciling himself into the 2016 starting lineup in Atlanta.
Perhaps the best part of Smith’s success is that Atlanta just does not have many legitimate outfield prospects in the farm system. With Nick Markakis under contract for three more years, the Braves have only one outfield spot locked up for the long term. So Smith’s performance is giving the team one solid option for the future, and one that could make an impact at the top of the lineup.
Jace Peterson is doing well as Atlanta’s starting second baseman. Dustin Peterson (no relation to Jace) was doing very well at the plate before going on the disabled list due to the bus accident with the Carolina Mudcats. And the Braves feel Max Fried, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, will return and become an outstanding prospect once he is healthy.
So regardless of how well Upton might do in San Diego, in what might be his only season with the Padres, the Braves are liking their return for the outfielder so far.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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