Dwight Smith Jr., son of former Braves OF, is top MLB Draft prospect

Junior (Special)

Dwight Smith Jr. (Special)

The son of a member of the Braves’ 1995 World Series champions may be the first Georgia high school player selected in this year’s major-league baseball draft, which starts Monday.

McIntosh outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. carries the same name as the former Braves outfielder. He has signed a baseball scholarship with Georgia Tech, is touted as one of the “best pure hitters” out of the high school ranks and is projected to be drafted in the top two rounds.

One year after the state produced an astounding five high school players drafted in the first round, it might have only a couple selected next week. Berrien outfielder Larry Greene and Stratford Academy outfielder Tyler Gibson, son of the Mercer baseball coach, also are highly rated prospects.

Meanwhile, Tech left-handed pitcher Jed Bradley is a consensus top-10 pick.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Smith looks a lot like his father, who played eight years in the majors, including stints with the Cubs, Angels and Orioles. He retired after the 1996 season with the Braves.

“I didn’t have me teaching me at a young age and grooming me,” Dwight Sr. said with a laugh.

“He has a beautiful swing and is going to have more power than me. I think with the speed, he’s eventually going to be faster than me. He is very sound fundamentally with his offense and defense. More than that, he carries himself in a good manner. I’m more proud of that than his baseball accomplishments.”

Dwight Jr. played all four years at McIntosh, where his hitting coach was another former Braves outfielder, Terry Harper. Naturally, though, his biggest baseball influence has been his father. Dwight’s first baby steps were at Wrigley Field when his father played for the Cubs.

“My father has taught me everything about the game, from defense, base running and hitting — and especially the mental part,” Dwight Jr. said. “You really need the mental part to play this game every day. You have to have a short memory because 162 games will really wear on you.”

Said Tech coach Danny Hall: “He’s an outstanding baseball player and can really hit. He just plays the game the right way. You can tell his dad has mentored him. He plays the right way and carries himself the right way.”

Since retiring from baseball, the elder Smith has focused on raising his family with his wife, Cheryl. The couple has been married 20 years, with Dwight Jr. the oldest of three children, along with younger sisters Taylor and Shannyn.

Dwight Smith Jr. (Special)

Dwight Smith Jr. (Special)

“I might mention that Cheryl is the backbone of this family,” Dwight Sr. said. “She has worked hard to keep us all intact. My son has got a mother that went through the minor leagues and major leagues with me, so he’s packed with baseball knowledge.”

The elder Smith has called the Atlanta area his home since 1990, long before the two-year stint with Braves, because “Chicago was too cold in the winter.”

Because of the father’s professional career, the son has always had high baseball expectations placed upon him. Dwight Jr. said it has been both a blessing and a curse, but something he relishes.

“When I succeed, people expect it,” he said. “When I don’t, they expect that I should. But I like having a target on my back. At the end of the day, I feel like I play my game and try not to be anybody else but myself.”

  • Where are they now? Here’s an update on the five Georgia high school players selected in the first round of last year’s baseball draft:
    Jake Skole is off to a torid start in the minors for the Texas Rangers (Special)

    Jake Skole has two promotions in less than a year for the Texas Rangers (Special)

    • Delino DeShields, 2B, Woodward Academy: The son of the former major leaguer by the same name was the first Georgia player drafted, picked at No. 8 by the Houston Astros. He signed for $2.15 million. DeShields plays for the Class-A team in Lexington, Ky. DeShields is batting .215 with four home runs, 20 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 47 games.
    • Jake Skole, OF, Blessed Trinity: Skole gave up his Georgia Tech football career after being drafted higher than expected, at No. 15 by the Texas Rangers. Skole signed within a few days after the draft for $1.557 million. Skole was more polished than the Rangers expected, and got two quick promotions to the Class-A affiliate in Hickory, N.C. He is batting .237with one home run and 16 RBIs in 46 games this season.
    • Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Cook: Drafted at No. 18 by the Angels, but was projected to go much higher. He reportedly fell because signing him would be difficult, and that proved to be true. He was the last of the five to sign and got the most, holding out for $2.3 million to give up his Florida State scholarship only 10 hours before the deadline. He already is considered the second-best prospect in the minors for the Angels. He is in extended spring training with the Angels, awaiting an assignment.
    • Cam Bedrosian, P, East Coweta: The son of the 1987 Cy Young Award winner was drafted No. 29 by the Angels and gave up his LSU scholarship for $1.116 million. The family celebrated with dinner at a Waffle House. Bedrosian was bothered by elbow soreness last summer and will be out until 2012 after undergoing “Tommy John” elbow surgery this spring.
    • Chevez Clarke, OF, Marietta: The last of three first-round picks by the Angels from Georgia high schools at No. 30. He gave up his Georgia Tech scholarship after signing for $1.089 million. Clarke has earned rave reviews with his defense, strong throwing arm, and power on offense, but he lacks discipline at the plate. He is in extended spring training with the Angels, awaiting an assignment.

– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog Got a recruiting item? mcarvell@ajc.com

CLICK HERE to catch up on ALL of the LATEST RECRUITING NEWS

Note: Inappropriate BLOG comments and personal attacks will NOT be tolerated. We love the lively discussions but hate-filled, harassing and irresponsible comments are unacceptable.

Follow me on Twitter @RecruitingAJC

16 comments Add your comment

Congrats

June 4th, 2011
1:16 am

Congrats!

Now wake me up when football season starts.

Whoo

June 4th, 2011
1:48 am

Check again. Skole’s only batting .244 — he’s SLUGGING .306. Not exactly torrid.

Michael Carvell

June 4th, 2011
2:36 am

@Whoo, thanks I will correct that. But two promotions in less than a year is outstanding

ATLANTA GEORGIA, USA

June 4th, 2011
8:22 am

Congrats, way to go, represent this well. Thanks

Davey Boy Smith

June 4th, 2011
9:00 am

Great article in USA Today earlier this week about the Royals’ approach to their bevy of young talent. Basically said that when a hitter is drafted out of high school, they try to promote him above his level and ignore his stats for the first two years. Obviously there are always exceptions like Heyward and Bryce Harper, but at this point, it’s hard to gather much from what those first year kids are doing.

RRTDawgs

June 4th, 2011
11:19 am

Hopefully the Braves can get Dwight Smith Jr. man do they need offense congrats young man were ever you get drafted .

collegeballfan

June 4th, 2011
1:43 pm

Signed for “… for $1.116 million. The family celebrated with dinner at a Waffle House.”

You gotta love it!

Chief Nock-a-homa

June 4th, 2011
4:00 pm

Bedrock! Bedrock!

Paddy

June 4th, 2011
6:03 pm

Whoo….it is not stats at this point in any players career. Never has been. If he makes AA and is a top player at that level, the big club will consider him a serious ML prospect. That is the way all big league clubs qualify their players.

Louie

June 4th, 2011
7:56 pm

What was his dad’s first name? Can’t remember any Smith other than Lonnie with the Braves.

BigTimeTECHfan

June 4th, 2011
8:28 pm

Tech Football got their 3rd commit for 2012 today, sweet

[...] BASEBALL DRAFT: Dwight Smith Jr., son of the former Atlanta Braves OF on the 1995 World Series champions, is a top prospect for Monday’s MLB Draft (go here for full story) [...]

[...] from Georgia, playing ball about four hours away from Atlanta, where his father spent two seasons with the Braves. Smith Jr. has a scholarship to Georgia Tech also on the [...]

[...] from Georgia, playing ball about four hours away from Atlanta, where his father spent two seasons with the Braves. Smith Jr. has a scholarship to Georgia Tech also on the [...]

[...] from Georgia, playing ball about four hours away from Atlanta, where his father spent two seasons with the Braves. Smith Jr. has a scholarship to Georgia Tech also on the [...]

[...] from Georgia, playing ball about four hours away from Atlanta, where his father spent two seasons with the Braves. Smith Jr. has a scholarship to Georgia Tech also on the [...]