Pensacola Cruises to Win

Bryson Smith was a late round selection of the Reds in 2011 after playing his senior season at the University of Florida. Since then he's hit above .300 at every stop and is now climbing his back to that level in his second season at AA Pensacola.

Pensacola scored three runs in the third inning and came back with another four in the next frame to cruise to an 8-2 home win over Montgomery. Tim Crabbe had another solid outing and picked up the win by tossing seven innings with only one run on four hits, a walk and six strikeouts. Michael Gilmartin got the Wahoo scoring started with an RBI double in the three run rally which included four hits and a walk. The fish played some long-ball the next inning with back-to-back home runs by Bryson Smith and Travis Mattair. Gilmartin struck again in the sixth with a solo homer to cap off their scoring. Brodie Greene had three hits in the game while Gilmartin reached with a couple of hits and a walk. Smith and Tucker Barnhart had a couple of hits each while Mattair and Theo Bowe both reached via a hit and walk.

Smith is hopeful that the multi-hit game is a sign that he's breaking out of a mini-slump. After a hot start to the season he entered the contest after going 4-27 over his previous ten games. He's now hitting .286 with an on-base percentage over .400. Now in his third minor league season he's managed to crack .300 at every stop.

He came to the Reds from the University of Florida when they selected him in a late round of the 2011 draft. He had been drafted previously when he came out of junior college, but opted to play for the Gators instead. He was hampered by a finger injury his first season at Gainesville and returned for another year. That campaign was interrupted by some disciplinary action but he returned to hit .439 in the college series and help his team to a runner-up finish.

He didn't start playing professionally until he was 22 years old and he torched the rookie leagues his first year with a .368 average. He skipped over low-A last year and batted .310 while splitting time between Bakersfield and Pensacola. College players that finish a senior season are older when they start their professional career and it's not unusual to see them get fast-tracked. Now he's faced with challenges of competing with highly regarded prospects at higher levels but the late-round selection is consistently forcing his name into lineups with a strong bat and ability to play in all three outfield spots.

Defensively most of his time this season has been in right field where most teams prefer having more of a power threat. Smith doesn't project for a lot of home runs, he hit six last season and has been able to hit enough gaps to give him a slugging percentage comfortably over the .400 mark. Most of his action in the Reds system has come in center field where he's committed a few errors and had a putout rate under two per game which is below the range that is preferred for the middle.

It can be easy for a skeptic to poke holes in any late-rounder's case for a future in the big leagues. Smith doesn't walk much but oddly enough he offsets that by getting hit by pitches. He's been plunked thirty times which is almost 5% of his plate appearances and nearly as many trips to first as his BB total (37). It would probably not be advisable to continue that for the welfare of his career (or health in general), but in the meantime it does help provide a nice AVG/OB differential. He makes good contact, striking out in around 13% of his trips into the box.

Perhaps Smith's circumstances made him available to the Reds with such a late pick. He was playing for a talent-laden college program and heard the name of nine other Gators called before his selection on draft day. Since then he has let his bat do his talking and it's taken him up to a candidate for a promotion to the Reds highest development level. He needs to improve plate discipline to keep the high on-base percentage when he reaches levels where it's harder to maintain the gaudy average and he's done that thus far this year with 6 BB's in his first 95 plate appearances. He's still getting hit (6 HBP already in 2013) so perhaps some calcium supplements for his bones would be advisable. There's always a job for someone who knows the way to first base regardless of his draft round and Smith projects as a utility outfielder on the major league level.

Cincy Hardball Top Stories