Mallex Lydell Smith
Height: 5'10" Weight: 180
Bats/Throws: Left / Right
Born: 05/06/1993 in Tallahassee, Florida
Offseason home: Tallahassee, Florida
Acquired: In trade from the Tampa Bay Rays, with Jake Fraley, for Mike Zunino, Guillermo Heredia, & Michael Plassmeyer (11/08/2018)
MLB Debut: 04/11/2016
Free Agent after: 2022 season
To say Smith has been a disappointment for the Mariners so far would be kind. He was supposed to be a force in the leadoff position, a .350ish on-base presence with speed and a solid defensive center fielder. Instead, thanks in part to a much-abbreviated spring training due to injury, Mallex has struggled to bat just .172/.254/.267, been bumped to the bottom of the lineup, made three errors and several more misplays in center field, and spent two weeks in Tacoma. He performed well during his demotion, putting up the kind of numbers in Triple-A that were expected of him at the Major League level (.333/.375/.467), but it didn't stick with him on his return; since being recalled to Seattle, Smith has just four hits in 19 at-bats. While in Tacoma, Smith also worked on his defense under the tutelage of former Mariner fan-favorite and Gold-Glove winner Mike Cameron, now a special assignment coach for the M's. "It’s a very comfortable feeling to have a guy like [Cameron] come in and take you under his wing," Smith told the Tacoma News-Tribune. "He’s helped me out a lot."
Eventually, Mallex will rebound. Throughout his career he's performed better in the summer months, batting .299/.365/.419 in June, July, and August, so perhaps we'll see improvement soon.
Though he'll miss the Tokyo series with a strained elbow, Mallex promises to be a significant cog in the Mariners' wheel, both for this year and beyond. The likely leadoff batter rates highly as a center fielder and has excellent footspeed, evidenced by his league-leading ten triples and 40 steals in his first full season in the Majors last year, not to mention his AL-leading infield hit percentage (14% of his infield grounders he beat out for hits). He and Dee Gordon can argue among themselves about which of them is the fastest Mariner, but both are elite baserunners and between them might reach 120 stolen bases this season.
Smith prides himself on being prepared and keeps a detailed notebook of his games, writing down impressions of a day's opposing pitchers, how he fared in certain counts, how certain defensive positioning played out, and so on. It's in some ways superfluous to today's mountain of video and analytical data, but the notebook is personal. "Scouting reports, all the camera work, is all information that somebody else has brought to you," Smith said. "When I write in my book, it's information that I gave to myself. I know how I feel about things, if I told myself, 'this is a good guy to steal bases on,' then I'm comfortable when I'm out there that it's a really good guy [for me to run on].... You gotta trust yourself more than somebody else."
The first player to wear the number 0 for the Mariners, Smith told KIRO-710 radio that he wears it because "I give zero [expletives]" about what is said about him in the press. Which means, I guess, that he won't be reading this, which is too bad—we'd love to hear from you, Mallex, even if you don't care what we think!