Appy notes: Smith settling in with Blue Jays

Bluefield shortstop brings high expectations into his pro debut

A fourth-round pick in June, Kevin Smith has hit safely in seven of his first 10 games with Bluefield. (University of Maryland)

By Bob Sutton / Special to MLB.com | July 6, 2017 10:00 AM ET

When the Blue Jays made shortstop Kevin Smith their fourth-round selection in June, it put Smith in a good position to make the jump following his junior season at the University of Maryland.

It also made him the second shortstop the organization selected early in the Draft. 

But Smith, who made his professional debut with Rookie-level Bluefield on June 22, sees the benefits of the situation.

"It was a dream coming true and you've been looking forward to that opportunity," Smith said. "It was an easy choice for me. It was a great opportunity for me."

Toronto made another college shortstop, North Carolina's Logan Warmoth, its first-round selection.

Smith has been pegged as a shortstop at the early stage of his professional career, and Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg noted Smith has shown good instincts at the position during the first weeks of the season.

"That's what I've been playing so far," Smith said. "That's the goal."

Holmberg said Smith is on a plan similar to other newcomers in the organization, thus a three-game stretch when his lone outing came as a designated hitter. But the objective for the summer will be to see what he can do on the field.

On July 4, his 21st birthday, Smith was back at shortstop and produced two doubles and walked twice.

"He has fit in nicely," Holmberg said. "He's figuring some things out at the plate. He competes at the plate and you like that."

Smith built a reputation in college as a power hitter, ranking in the top 10 in Maryland history in home runs and RBIs. With just two weeks with Bluefield, he said he needs to get back in the groove.

Still, he had at least one hit in seven of his first 10 games.

"I have high expectations for myself," Smith said, describing his success in college summer leagues as something that gives him confidence with wooden bats. "I can get a little better with the bat. I want to take control of that."

Last summer, Smith competed in the Cape Cod League, where he was named MVP and had the opportunity to face Warmoth. Now, they are fellow prospects in the Blue Jays organization. 

"It will be fun to work with him in the upcoming years," Smith said.

That's why Smith didn't read too much into the Draft and any perceived pecking order.

"You can't figure out the Draft. Anything can happen," he said. "You don't know what their priorities are. Just let it all play out."

Smith said the adjustment to small-town Bluefield, West Virginia, has been smooth, pointing to his upstate New York roots in East Greenbush. He said the atmosphere around the team has been positive, specifically noting Holmberg's ability to keep things loose.

"It's a big transition and you have to stay with the grind and trust what you're doing," Smith said. "Control what you can control."

In brief

Powerful start: Outfielder Michael Gigliotti hit three home runs this year as a junior at Lipscomb University, so it wasn't easy to explain his two-homer professional debut with the Burlington Royals. In his fourth game, he drilled two triples. Still, the Florida native realizes there's plenty of season left. "This game is a very humbling sport," said Gigliotti, a 20-year-old drafted in the fourth round. "The second you think you're high and mighty, you get the rug pulled out from underneath you."

Time well spent: Danville Braves pitcher Kyle Muller, a second-round pick in 2016, said when he didn't make a full-season team out of Spring Training he concentrated on fine-tuning his mechanics. By his second outing with Danville, he logged five shutout innings at Burlington. "[I] had a slow Spring Training, so I stayed and worked on some things," he said. "I had better feel with everything. My offspeed was there for me."

That hurt: Kingsport Mets third baseman Yeffry De Aza exited the first game of the season when he suffered a severely sprained right ankle in the second inning on a successful steal of second base. The 20-year-old, who needed assistance leaving the field, is back for a second season with Kingsport. He could resume regular baseball activities by mid-July.

Bob Sutton 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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