Coming into the 2017 MLB Draft, Virginia fans knew that two Hoos would be drafted early in the first round, as both Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley were projected to go anywhere from around No. 5 to No. 20 overall. The only questions were how high they would they go, and which one of them would go first.
Prior to arriving on grounds, Pavin was drafted in the 32nd round by the Colorado Rockies. Undoubtedly, he would’ve been drafted higher were it not for his commitment to the Hoos.
Pavin is a first baseman with a great approach at the plate. Some scouts call him the most polished hitter in college baseball this year. He struck out just 12 times in over 250 plate appearances. He also hit 13 HRs and his 77 RBI are a single-season UVA record. He also batted .342 with a 997 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Pavin’s claim to fame for UVA fans comes not from his performance this year, but from his performance in the final game of the 2015 CWS. In that game, Smith went 2/3 with a walk. He drove in 3 of the Hoos 4 runs. The first 2 of those runs came via a 2-run game-tying HR in the 4th inning.
For his career, Smith batted .325 with 28 HRs (6th all-time at Virginia) and 178 RBI (2nd all-time at Virginia). He finishes his career with an .402 OBP and a .514 SLG. He also compiled a .989 fielding percentage at 1B.
As a pro, Smith profiles to be a plus defender at 1B. He moves well, he’s got very good hands and he has a strong arm. (Smith was a HS pitcher.) He runs well enough that he could potentially play some corner OF as well in the pros.
At the plate, his approach is really what sets him apart. His 13 HRs versus just 12 strikeouts is an incredible accomplishment. There were questions about his ability to hit for power, but he answered many of those questions this year. Still, there are concerns that his power may not translate in the big leagues. It is hard to be a real asset at 1B in the Majors if you aren’t a 30 HR guy. But Pavin should be a high average hitter, regardless of whether his power translates. One thing that scouts note about Pavin is that his approach is so advanced, he may not need much time in the minors.
In that regard, Pavin has been compared to John Olerud, who was also an outstanding college player. Olerud went straight from college to the big leagues and ended up having a steallar 17 year MLB career. Olerud never developed into much of a power hitter, with a career high of 24 HRs. But he batted .295 for his career, finished with a .398 OBP. Olerud also won 3 gold gloves at 1B. Pavin would do well to follow in Olerud’s path.