FSL notes: Smith makes name for himself

Dunedin outfielder benefits from close bond with big league father

Dwight Smith Jr. is batting .290 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 46 games. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com | May 28, 2014 10:00 AM ET

Dwight Smith has a World Series championship ring as a member of the 1995 Atlanta Braves, but his most memorable game may have come this April as part of a Sunday crowd at Clearwater's Bright House Stadium.

It was thrill enough when son Dwight Smith Jr. led off the game for Dunedin with a home run against rehabbing Phillies ace Cole Hamels. When the 21-year-old outfielder took the left-hander deep again his next time up in the third inning, it was a day no proud father could forget.

"He definitely was excited," said the 53rd overall pick in the 2011 Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Father and son are nearly mirror images physically and as players. More importantly, their bond is inseparable.

"I've learned everything from baseball to life from my dad," Dwight Jr. said. "My dad is my best friend. He's always been there for me, and he will always be there for me. Just like a dad is supposed to be."

Dwight Sr. played eight seasons in the Majors with four teams and was runner-up for 1989 National League Rookie of the Year while with the Chicago Cubs, so he obviously knows the game.

"We talk every day," said the son. "As a former player, he knows what I'm going through and what I need to work on. It's an advantage for me to have his knowledge available, and I don't waste it. It's almost like he's there watching me even when he isn't."

Dwight Sr. was in Clearwater, though, when his son's first multi-homer game in the Minors came against a Major Leaguer.

"It was a great experience to share," said Dwight Jr., a left-handed hitter like his father. "He was here for the first week of the season and will be back during the summer."

Despite two homers against Hamels, the Blue Jays prospect isn't a power hitter. But he has a mature approach at the plate and makes consistent contact.

Smith has cooled off since hitting .330 in April, but he remains an offensive catalyst at the top of the Dunedin lineup along with fellow outfielder Dalton Pompey.

After 46 games, Smith was tied for fourth in the Florida State League with 34 runs scored and was hitting .290 with a .370 on-base percentage. He had walked 23 times compared to only 22 strikeouts.

Smith was hitting .366 with runners on base and had 11 doubles, four triples, four homers and 23 RBIs overall.

He's clearly learned his dad's lessons well.

"I was too young, of course, to see him play, but I know we do have similarities," Smith said.

Smith grew up south of Atlanta in Peachtree City and made the trek to the north suburbs to play in the famed East Cobb baseball program.

"It was a long trip, but I wanted to see how I measured up," Smith said. "It paid off. I'm grateful I had the opportunity."

The Blue Jays took Smith, who had a stellar career at McIntosh High School, in the supplemental round of the 2011 Draft despite his commitment to Georgia Tech, and he signed at the August deadline for $800,000.

Smith didn't start in the Minors until the next year and it was a rough first season, his combined .212 average between Bluefield and Vancouver placing him near the bottom of the Toronto system.

Last season, though, was a breakout year. Despite starting the season on the disabled list, Smith hit .284 with a .365 on-base percentage, 27 extra-base hits and 25 steals in the Class A Midwest League, winning Lansing's Most Valuable Player honor.

With the Lugnuts, Smith went 2-for-2 with a triple against rehabbing Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto.

Smith is still a ways from realizing his dream and joining his father as a Major Leaguer, but he has already had success against Major League pitchers.

In brief

Slump buster: Jupiter third baseman Colin Moran smacked his first homer May 23 in a three-hit game, but was still trying to find his comfort zone at the plate after missing the first three weeks of the season because of a sprained MCL in his left knee. Moran, Miami's No. 2 prospect, had been in a slump prior to the breakout and was hitting .264 with 12 RBIs through 32 games. Moran, 21, was the sixth overall pick in the 2013 Draft out of the University of North Carolina.

Finally moving up: Brevard County left-hander Jed Bradley, the 15th overall pick in the 2011 Draft out of Georgia Tech, was promoted to Double-A Huntsville after finally getting on track following two disappointing seasons in the Florida State League. He was tied for the league lead in victories with a 5-2 record and had a 2.98 ERA in 10 starts. Bradley, 23, had 53 strikeouts to 10 walks in 60 1/3 innings.

Starts at top: Second baseman Dilson Herrera has been the perfect table-setter at the top of a potent St. Lucie lineup. The New York Mets' No. 10 prospect was hitting .324 with a .365 on-base average and had scored 39 runs -- second best in the league to teammate Brandon Nimmo -- over 50 games. Herrera, 20, had 16 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases. He was acquired from Pittsburgh last August as part of trade that sent veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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