Yesterday I posted my first article of a quartet looking at somewhat under the radar players for the divisional rivals of the Angels. You can read part one about Justin Maxwell here, as today I shift focus from the Astros to the Athletics.
Seth Smith, Age 30, Corner Outfielder
This offseason the Oakland athletics added Chris Young to an already crowded outfield, which on first glance didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense. There were five starting calibre outfielders battling for three starting spots plus occasional time as the Designated Hitter. As it seems like they always do, the Athletics are employing as many as four platoons this season, and Seth Smith man’s one with the newly acquired Chris Young as his right-handed counterpart. Smith was acquired in a trade for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman, a very perplexing trade at the time as Moscoso was an extreme flyball pitcher and predictably failed hard in Coors Field.
Originally drafted in the second round by the Rockies in 2004, Smith played 3 seasons for the University of Mississippi. While at Mississippi, Smith also played football and was the backup quarterback for Eli Manning. Smith first reached the major leagues in 2007, and went five for eight with a triple in a small seven game call-up. Returned to AAA for 2008, Seth Smith hit extremely well, posting a 143 wRC+ in Colorado Springs forcing his way into the lineup after his call-up due to injuries to Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe.
Since then Smith has become a solid player who can play both corner outfield positions semi-capably, though is much better in left field than right. UZR rates Smith as 8.2 runs above average in left field and 7.7 runs below average in right field per 150 defensive games, though both are somewhat small samples. As for Defensive Runs Saved from Baseball Info Solutions, Smith rates as having saved 2 runs in 1783 innings in left field and saving -12 runs in 1254 innings in right field. I didn’t add Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average as a defensive statistic yesterday, a minor oversight, but FRAA rates Smith as 13.4 runs above average for his career in the outfield. As evidenced by the numbers above, metrics don’t agree on Smiths defense at all. In the past there has been talk of Coors Field having strange impact on defensive metrics.
When it comes to hitting, Smith should never face a left handed pitcher and despite playing Coors for all but one season of his career has hit .191/.264/.307/.572 line or a 46 wRC+ against southpaws. Contrasting that is his .284/.362/.504/.866 line (123 wRC+) against right-handers, hence being platooned with Chris Young. As a left handed platoon player Smith is most effective when pulling the ball. Smith loves high fastballs at the top of the zone, but also has decent plate coverage and hits breaking pitches quite well from right-handers. Not a stolen base threat, just 19 career steals, he is a solid base-runner.
Smith may only play vs. right handed pitchers but in any given series verses the Angels he’ll play twice likely and the Angels right hander heavy bullpen suggests he won’t be pinch hit for often. In a terribly small sample size, Smith posted a .572 OPS against the Angels last season. The wonderful PECOTA projection system from Baseball Prospectus has Smith with a .248/.329/.418/.747 line, which is more impressive once you consider the ballpark he plays his home games in. Watch for Seth Smith when the Angels take on the A’s for the first time this season April 9th to 11th.