Friday, March 4, 2016

Mallex Smith is faster than you

I can tell already based on the games the Braves have played what the story lines will be surrounding spring training. Here they are in my ascending order of importance/hype:
  1. What are we doing with Jace Peterson? Why is he playing all these positions?
  2. Will Frenchy make this team?
  3. Will we cut Nick Swisher and/or Bourn and just eat their ridiculous contracts?
  4. Is the bullpen any better at all?
  5. What are we doing with Hector Olivera?
  6. How is Freddie Freeman's wrist?
  7. Will we be putting a rotation of fans in left field based on a lottery system?
  8. Is Bud Norris reallly the 2nd starter? Really?
  9. Which pitchers will actually end up in the rotation?
  10. OMG MALLEX SMITH IS AMAZING PLAY HIM NOW!
If you heard/watched the first spring training game, Mallex had two triples in one inning and was a single short of the cycle. Why a single? Because he's too damn fast for singles, son! Don't you know this?

Anyway, the hype around Mallex will likely hit a fever pitch if he continues to produce during the the spring training games. He's got a combination of hitting and speed that could make him one of the key players in the Braves outfield for a long time.

But we've heard this before. We heard it with Frenchy. We heard it with Jason Heyward. And despite your feelings on Heyward's value as a player, he's not here anymore and he never lived up to the top-billing potential that would have forced the Braves to sign him to a Freddie Freeman-like contract.

A player like Mallex Smith has a huge upside as a lead-off candidate for this team, because he's built for speed and hitting to all fields. He was a .281 hitter in Gwinnett last year with a .339 OBP. He stole 34 bases in 69 games and only struck out 44 times. When you add in his 24 walks, the kid actually had more stolen bases and walks combined than strikeouts. That's a vintage lead-off hitter.

But like all things in the majors nothing is simple. Hitters come out hot, and pitchers adjust, then the hitters adjust back, then the pitchers adjust, and it goes round and round. The best hitters in the world simply don't have major holes in their swings for pitchers to abuse, and they punish mistakes. With 4 years in the minors, I think we're getting close to seeing what kind of hitter Mallex can be. And I think the Braves are in the unique opportunity of not caring about results while they let younger players learn on the job.

It's shaping up to be a very interesting spring for Mallex Smith. Keep an eye on him if you aren't already.

GO BRAVES!

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