RubberDucks Notebook: Smith's confidence is showing
Week In Review
The RubberDucks (48-35) split two series this past week with both the Erie SeaWolves and the Harrisburg Senators. The team had to deal with Bryce Harper this past weekend on rehab assignment, but they fought through it. The team won the first game of a four-game series in Erie Monday night, 9-1. Akron sits a half-game back from the Richmond Flying Squirrels (48-34) for first place in the EL Western.
There are many players on the Akron RubberDucks roster that are praised and talked about by fans and the media, but Jordan Smith is a name that is often overlooked.
Smith, a 9th round selection in the 2011 MLB draft, has been in the Indians’ farm system for four years now. The 23-year-old has ascended through each level of the minors after one full season each with Mahoning Valley, Lake County, and Carolina.
He now finds himself midway through the year with the RubberDucks. After batting over .290 in his previous three seasons, Smith finds himself struggling at the double-A level with a batting average of .225 with 52 strikeouts through only 72 games. The right fielder commented on the difference between the two levels.
“I think there is the minor league for a reason, it’s a gradual improvement from every level. I don’t think it is a huge jump but there’s definitely better talent then high-A,” said Smith.
RubberDucks manager David Wallace believes that it is just taking him a little longer to get used to double-A, “Some guys may not have been able to expose the holes in his swing in single-A ball as they are able to do here. All of these guys here have had to make some sort of adjustment, his is just taking a little longer, but it’s just natural and were excited about where he’s going to be in the future.”
Despite his struggles overall this year, Smith has been explosive as of late, and he attributes that to adjustments and a little bit of good fortune.
“I’ve been plugging away in the cages, continuing to work, and putting in the time with Rougie [Odor]” he said. “I guess they’re just starting to fall in or something,” Smith added with a smirk on his face.
Wallace said that he and his staff are excited to see the adjustments that he’s made payoff for the right fielder, “He’s been working on it for a few weeks and we’re starting to see it in games. He’s shortened his swing and pulled some balls well lately on some pitches with some pretty good velocity, so those are good signs.”
Jordan also said confidence has been a huge factor in his recent success, “It starts by walking up to the plate and being ready to do some damage.”
And he has delivered that damage in a big way in this past week, as the 23-year-old homered for the first time this season, had 11 hits, and drove in nine. Smith is batting .478 during this stretch.
Another positive about Smith’s recent tear is the lack of strikeouts at the plate. As mentioned before, he has struck out 52 times total, but only 12 of those came in June. He hasn’t been punched out in seven straight games. He credits his plate discipline for this recent progress.
“I’m just trying to get on base. There are a lot of good hitters on this team so I want to get on and let them drive me in and do the dirty work, I guess.”
While looking at Smith’s statistics, I found an interesting split. At Canal Park, Smith is batting .266 with 37 hits, however the road is a different story. When he is in enemy territory, he is averaging .179 with only 22 hits. I brought up the subject to him and he said he believes that he just has a better batter’s eye at home.
“I’m not really sure why that is, I think I need to step it up on the road. But I see the ball well at home and enjoy playing in front of these fans.”
It always helps when you have somebody you know on a team too. This is the case for Smith, as he and Wallace have been together since their time at Mahoning Valley. Smith made sure to mention Akron’s skipper as a key component to his development, “He’s an amazing manager and we all really enjoy playing for him. I know a lot about him and he knows a lot about me and what to expect from me, so it’s a really good relationship.”
As far as Wally’s opinion, he doesn’t see why this momentum can’t keep going, “I expect it to continue and I think we will see this a little bit more.”
The injury bug hit Akron in a bad way this past week, taking away arguably three of the team’s best players.
“That’s three good players that are out. Regardless of how good they are and how much they mean to the team, you hate seeing any of those guys go out for that significant amount of time,” Wally commented.
Francisco Lindor, SS
Lindor took a funny hop off of his face on a grounder during Wednesday’s game and suffered a non-displaced nasal fracture against Erie. According to Wally, Monday he was fitted for a mask to protect his nose and will possibly be back sooner than expected.
“We’ll see how comfortable he is wearing it. If he’s able to play in that with no restrictions, he’ll be right back in there,” said Akron's skipper.
Tyler Naquin, CF
The hot-hitting center fielder was placed on the 7-day DL and may be facing surgery after being hit by a pitch on Friday that fractured his right hand. The center field prospect will be out for several weeks at least.
Joe Wendle, 2B
Naquin was not the only RubberDuck that was injured this past week. Thursday night, Wendle suffered a fractured hamate bone in his right hand after a foul ball. He was also be out for a significant amount of time.
Giovanni Soto, LHP
2 G, 3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 4 SO, 0 BB
In case you need a refresher, Soto was acquired in the 2010 offseason from Detroit straight up for Jhonny Peralta.
After starting off the season nearly untouchable, the lefty reliever struggled to find his command in May. These difficulties continued into June, but lately he has started to get back to his old self. In his past three outings, Soto has given up just one hit and struck out six with his opponents batting .077 against him.
Ronny Rodriguez, SS
6 G, 25 AB, .320 BA, .320 OBP, .400 SLG, .720 OPS, 8 H, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 3 R
With the absence of Lindor, Naquin, and Wendle, the RubberDucks are going to need somebody to provide some offense. Rodriguez has already shown that he is capable of doing that. The utility infielder went 4-for-4 against Harrisburg this past Thursday, and he has now seen his batting average rise from the high-100s to almost .250.
Anthony Gallas, OF
6 G, 23 AB, .391 BA, .400 OBP, .522 SLG, .922 OPS, 9 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB
The local Kent State product finished off his month on a strong note, going 3-for-4 with three singles in Monday night’s win at Erie. Since arriving in Akron on June 11th, Gallas is batting .368 with three home runs and 10 RBI.
Cody Anderson, RHP
1 GS, 1 L, 6 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 6 SO, 3 BB
Although this past week’s start was a little better than his previous outings, Anderson is still having a tough time on the mound. The right-hander recorded his fourth straight loss in a row. During this stretch, he has a 9.72 ERA and has allowed 18 earned runs, including 8 home runs, in just 16.2 IP.
Gabriel Arias, RHP
1 GS, 1 ND, 5.2 IP, 6.35 ERA, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 H, 1 2B, 2 SO, 4 BB
Since returning to Akron from Columbus, Arias hasn’t looked awful. However in this past Thursday’s start, he wasn’t at his best. The right-hander allowed four earned runs on six hits in just 5.2 IP. He also walked four batters.
Bryan LaHair, 1B
5 G, 27 AB, .188 BA, .350 OBP, .188 SLG, .538 OPS, 3 H, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K, 4 BB
The former 2012 all-star hasn’t been able to find his swing like he was able to in May. The first baseman has now seen his total season average dip below .240 since hitting his peak of .306 at the end of last month.
From Carolina: Erik Gonzalez, SS
4 G, 18 AB, .278 BA, .316 OBP, .500 SLG, .816 OPS, 5 H, 1 HR, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 5 R, 1 SB
After going hitless in his first nine at-bats with the RubberDucks, Gonzalez bounced back nicely his next two games. Sunday he had first RBI and three singles, and Monday he homered, doubled and drove in two.
“We’ve talked to the staff in Carolina and we’ll just continue the same routine that he had down there. Gonzo’s a good, confident player, the best thing we can do is get him some at-bats,” Akron’s skipper commented.
From Carolina: Ollie Linton, OF
4 G, 14 AB, .455 BA, .538 OBP, .818 SLG, 1.357 OPS, 5 H, 1 HR, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB
It’s not usual when you are demoted to Carolina only to find out two days later that you are going back up to Akron. But Ollie has tried to make a statement that he belongs. In his return game on Saturday, Linton went 3-for-3 with his first homer as a RubberDuck and a double with two RBI.
Wallace said that with the injury to Naquin and Bryson Myles already on the disabled list, that Linton will primarily play center field for the foreseeable future.
From Columbus: Adam Abraham, 3B
3 G, 14 AB, .556 BA, .467 OBP, .786 SLG, 1.252 OPS, 6 H, 1 HR, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 4 R
The 27-year-old third baseman is no stranger to playing in Akron. In his third stint with the team, Abraham has gotten off to a tremendous start. Sunday afternoon, he homered, doubled twice, and drove in six.
“Adam’s an experienced hitter and knows what he’s doing at the plate. He’s going to be a good bat for us in the middle of our lineup,” said Wally.
From Columbus: J.C. Ramirez, RHP
2 G, 3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 SO, 2 BB
In two games back with Akron, Ramirez has been solid. He has struck out two batters and walked two batters. He hasn’t allowed a hit.
To Columbus: Bryan Price, RHP
2 G, 2.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 SO, 2 BB
Price was promoted to Columbus on Thursday, and he has looked pretty good. In two relief appearances, Price hasn’t allowed a run and has struck out three.
To Arizona: Trey Haley, RHP
1 GS, 1 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 H, 0 SO, 1 BB
The right-hander was sent to Arizona on Wednesday. Appearing in his first rehab-stint of the season, Haley gave up two hits and an earned run.
Returning From Injury
The 23-year-old catcher returned on Monday after missing a month of action with a sprained right ankle. He replaced LaHair at first base in the sixth inning and went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.
The RubberDucks (48-35) continue their four-game series Tuesday night against Erie (34-46). Akron will then return home for a 4th of July weekend series with the Bowie Baysox (45-38).
Spencer Davies is a student at the University of Akron studying Sports Management with a minor concentrating in Mass Communication. He has interned for the Cleveland Indians minor league affiliate Akron RubberDucks, IMG College, and has shadowed Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico. He currently is an on-air sports personality at WZIP-FM and works for the Akron Beacon Journal. Follow Spencer on Twitter @SpinDavies.