As we have mentioned, the Twins may very well decide to make a deal with the number one overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft. If they do so, there are a few players that the Twins could choose from. We have already covered Royce Lewis, a high upside prep athlete who profiles as either a shortstop or center fielder. There is also a high-floor college hitter in the discussion for deal makers—first baseman Pavin Smith, a junior from the University of Virginia.
If Brendan McKay is best pure hitter in the college ranks this year, Pavin Smith is likely within the top three. As of June 3rd, Smith had a triple slash line of .346/.429/.571 with impressive power at the Cavaliers notoriously pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Smith might not have a pure “plus” hit tool like McKay or UC Irvine DH/2B/OF Keston Huira, but he does have an above average hit tool along with a solid approach at the plate (36 walks this year versus 9 strikeouts). He has the ability to hit the ball to all fields with gap-power and has also shown an ability to turn on the ball this year, with scouts believing he now possesses above average game power.
As a fielder, Smith will likely be an average first baseman, maybe even slightly above average. He has played some left field during his time at Virginia and has an average arm out there, but his general lack of athleticism means he will likely be destined to play first base as a pro. Still, he will be tried in the outfield in an attempt to maximize value and may prove to be a Josh Willingham-like outfielder, who needs coverage help from a rangy center fielder, which the Twins certainly have in Byron Buxton.
There are not a ton of weaknesses for Smith, only that he does not have much of a ceiling. He should be able to put the ball in play with some pop as a big leaguer, but will likely never lead the league in batting average or home runs. If he is unable to hit for power at the next level, he will be a low impact bat at first base, along the lines of Joe Mauer the last few seasons. He will likely be an above replacement-level player no matter what, but you want more of a ceiling than that at 1-1.
Smith is expected to go within the top fifteen selections in this year’s draft. If the Twins can make a deal with him to take him first overall, they will likely be able to save a large amount of money that they can then spend on their 35th and 37th picks. Of course, that money is only worthwhile if the Twins feel confident that high quality prospects will fall to them with those later picks.
Making a deal with Smith would mean the Twins were passing on high upside players like Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, and Royce Lewis, or a player with an even higher floor like Brendan McKay. Still, Smith should be able hit through the minors quickly and make an impact at the MLB level far before most other players in the draft.
If the Twins feel there is not much of a difference between the bats of Smith and McKay, and that there would be quality prospects available with the 35th and 37th picks, the Twins could very plausibly be calling Smith’s name first overall on June 12th. He would likely be able to make it to Cedar Rapids or Fort Myers this summer and would easily become one of the Twins’ top five prospects.