A closer look: Who is new Mariners center fielder Mallex Smith?
The newest Mariners player is actually an old one – sort of.
Outfielder Mallex Smith has been a member of the Mariners organization before, but only for 77 minutes. He was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in a trade on Jan. 11, 2017, then later that same day shipped to Tampa Bay as part of the deal that brought Drew Smyly to Seattle. The whole ordeal made for an interesting piece of trivia that the Rays themselves had some fun with when they came to Safeco Field last June.
Tonight… he returns. pic.twitter.com/54iQvKkYIs
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 1, 2018
OK, but who is Mallex Smith, really?
Here are some facts and figures on the Mariners’ new center fielder.
• First and foremost, the 25-year-old Smith is fast. Like, really fast. His 10 triples in 2018 tied for the American League lead and was second only to Arizona’s Ketel Marte in all of baseball. His 40 steals ranked third in the MLB. And his sprint speed of 29.8 feet per second was the 14th-fastest among MLB players with at least 10 competitive running opportunities last season, according to baseballsavant.mlb.com.
• That speed comes in handy for Smith in the outfield, where he has proven to be an asset defensively. Just look at these two plays he made in the same game in September against the Toronto Blue Jays.
• Moving to Seattle will be a pretty drastic change for Smith. A Florida native who grew up in Tallahassee, about a four-hour drive away from the Rays’ home stadium in St. Petersburg, Smith also played college ball at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla. A 13th-round draft pick of San Diego in 2011, Smith did spend 10 games with the Padres’ Short-A affiliate in Eugene, Ore., in 2012. Since Smith was traded to the Atlanta Braves in December 2014 as part of a deal that sent Justin Upton to San Diego, however, every team he has played for has been based somewhere in the southern United States.
• Smith made the Rays’ opening day roster in 2018, with the plan being that he would platoon with Denard Span in left field. Of course Span was traded to the Mariners in June, and that opened the door for Smith to play a total of 141 games, posting an impressive .296/.367/.406 slash line. While Smith played 24 games in left field and nine in right, he spent the majority of his time in center (51 games).
• Smith made his MLB debut in 2016, appearing in 72 games for the Braves. In 2017, the Rays played him in 81 games, and 2018 was his first full season at the MLB level.
• As Smith just missed Super Two status, his is not yet arbitration eligible and won’t be a free agent until the 2022 season.