It all starts with confidence.
It begins the moment you leave the dugout and head to the batter’s box. Believing in yourself and knowing what you can do and how you can accomplish this at the plate. This type of mentality can be hard to achieve, even for the most experienced players in baseball. For Jordan Smith, he’s finally starting to feel comfortable and confident with the RubberDucks.
“The confidence of walking up to the plate and being ready to do some damage. I think I’ve just trying to be a little more confident in everything I do. I think it’s starting to translate into the box,” Smith says.
This season has not been so friendly for Smith, as he’s been having trouble translating his past success into the Double-A level. After being drafted by the Indians in the ninth round of the 2011 First Year Player Draft, Smith has gradually moved up through the system each year.
Through his first three years in the minors, Smith had been a consistent hitter with some pop and decent speed. During this time, Smith hit .303/.379/.415 with 175 RBI, 72 doubles, 14 triples, 14 home runs, and 30 stolen bases in 315 games. So far with the RubberDucks this season, Smith is hitting .232/.282/.292 with 32 RBI, 12 doubles, one triple, one home run and five stolen bases. It seems that Smith has struggled putting the ball in play and getting on base compared to his previous seasons.
Noticing that he has not performed to the caliber that he is accustomed to, Smith began to make some adjustments at the plate to change his fortunes.
“I’ve just been plugging away at the cages and just keep continuing to work,” Smith explained. “Just putting the time with [Rouglas Odor] and really just focus on getting ready to hit in every at bat. As far as the success, I guess they’re just starting to fall in or something.”
It seems as though the adjustments that Smith has been working on has finally come to fruition. Over his last ten games, Smith is hitting .342/.333/.474 with 9 RBI, 2 doubles, and 1 home run.
“We’re really excited about some of the offensive adjustments he’s making right now. He’s been working on them for a few weeks and we’re starting to see it pay off in the game,” manager Dave Wallace said about Smith’s improvements.
During that ten game span, Smith also had a short five game hitting streak where in three of those games he had multiple hits. It seems as though Smith has finally figured out how to adjust to Double-A ball. For some guys, it can tend to take a bit longer to adjust than with others.
“If everytime you made an adjustment and it happened the next day then we wouldn’t need the minor leagues,” Wallace said. “This stuff takes time. Some guys adjust quicker than others. However much time it takes it what we’ll do, and however much work it takes we’ll put it in.”
As Smith has progressed through each level of the minor league system, he has been able to excel in each level. This season has been the first year that he has truly struggled offensively.
“Its natural adjustments to the higher level that he might not have seen,” Wallace said. “Guys may not have been able to expose some holes in his swing in A-ball as they have been able to here. All these guys have had to make some sort of adjustment as they’ve moved up a level.”
This is the reason that the minor leagues exist. If Smith would have just skipped his next two levels and went straight to the MLB instead of spending his time in the minors, his professional baseball career could have been over in a much shorter period. Since he has put in the time and effort to work on where he has struggled at this season he’s able to see some improvements in his offense and can finally feel comfortable at the plate again.
What’s been encouraging to see as the season has gone on is that Smith is finding a way on base, whether it’s by a hit or by a walk. He tends to play around the eighth or ninth spot in the lineup, so getting on base before the lineup rolls over can benefit the heavy hitters that sit on the top of the lineup.
“I’m just trying to get on base. There’s a lot of good hitters on this team. I get on base and let them drive me in. I’m just trying to get on base and let them do the dirty work,” Smith said.
Prior to the freak injuries that occurred to Tyler Naquin and Joe Wendle, the top of the lineup had consisted of Naquin, Francisco Lindor, and Wendle. When you have players like that to bat behind the bottom part of the lineup, getting on base becomes even more crucial for the 7-8-9 hitters.
Smith has only gotten better as the season has gone on. His adjustments at the plate, and the confidence that he has been building, has all begun to translate into his play not only on offense, but out in right field as well. He’s been the everyday right fielder all season long, and that doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. His demeanor in the game has improved along with his improved approach at the bat. The continued improvement on these qualities will dictate how Smith spends his time in Double-A.
By the looks of it, it seems that Smith is finally ready to show Akron the kind of player he truly is.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer