Baltimore Orioles: How about Seth Smith for the Outfield?


Aug 5, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Seth Smith (12) hits a single in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the past several weeks, we have spent a good bit of our column space in looking at a variety of possible corner outfielders for the Baltimore Orioles to pick up to cover for the losses of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.

A number of the more common and top-drawer names have now signed with other teams and are off the board.

Along the way we have looked at Travis Snider (link here), Colby Rasmus (link here), and Mike Morse, Melky Cabrera and Matt Kemp.

Another name that has been mentioned a few times is San Diego outfielder Seth Smith – made more expendable by the Padres getting Kemp and now Wil Myers from the Rays. They have too many outfielders, but are said to be still in the market for more.

Like Rasmus and Snider, Smith is a left-handed bat and glove … like also Alejandro De Aza and David Lough. It seems to be a theme. Personally, I’d rather hear about a right-handed bat – specifically one named Delmon Young. But I digress.

So let’s take a look at Smith, who is largely unknown to Orioles fans due to his career being mostly in the National League (other than 2012 and 2013 with Oakland).

Smith was a second round draftee in 2004 by the Colorado Rockies out of the University of Mississippi. He is currently age 32.

In 2014, though he tailed off in the final two months, Smith was the top hitter on the terribly weak Padres team. He ended with an average of .266 with 31 doubles and 12 homers. His OBP of .367 was especially impressive.

For his career, Smith has an average of .265 and OBP of .347.  But here is a problem: for his career, his average against right-handers is .277, but against LHP it is a mere .205.  This almost makes him a platoon player and explains why he has never appeared in more than 147 games in a season – and that only once, with three other years in the mid-130s.

Speed is not a featured part of his game, but he is a relatively average defender with a decent arm who could, and has, played both corner outfield positions. Let me add his name to a comparative recent chart that looked at fellow lefty/lefty players Snider, De Aza and Lough …

Smith Career247915985.265.347
Snider Career17068850.246.310
De Aza Career217610338.268.330
Lough Career597299.268.308
Smith 20144433112.266.367
Snider 20143221513.264.338
De Aza 2014528248.252.314
Lough 201419464.247.309

So Smith is clearly the best hitter of the four players. And with his good OBP, could he be an answer as a leadoff batter? He works counts well and he does draw a lot of walks. However, his career average batting in the #1 spot in the lineup is .252 and his career number when batting first in any inning is .281 – neither will get him to the head of the class.

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Smith might work out sufficiently well against right-handed pitching, but what would the Orioles do against all the tough lefties they see? And without going into detailed explanations, his varied clutch-hitting statistics are not exceptional in any way.

Beyond all of this is the contract extension that Smith signed this past summer for $13 million over two years, with an optional third year at $7 million. It has also been reported that he was promised to not be dealt away, but that was before current GM A.J. Preller was on the scene.

Is this a workable situation? Probably yes. Is it likely? I would say the odds are against it. Do the Padres need a lefty like Brian Matusz?  I don’t know.

Duquette: please just get Delmon Young signed!

Next: Who will bat leadoff for the O's?