Smith made a strong impression on guest outfield instructor Mike Cameron this spring, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle reports. Cameron notes Smith was one of his best students in spring camp, which also featured guest appearances from past franchise luminaries such as Ken Griffey, Jr, Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki. The speedy outfielder demonstrated "tremendous" improvement in defensive drills, which consisted of fielding live balls off the bat of Suzuki. Smith sported fielding percentages of .984 or better at all three outfield spots in 2019, but Cameron's assessment implies the 26-year-old could be even sharper this coming season. "He's starting to put things together, showed a lot of improvement and Chris Prieto (former outfield coach) contributed a lot to that as did the fact that Mallex works so hard," Cameron said.
Smith's spot on the Opening Day roster was considered secure when spring training was suspended, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. The speedy outfielder's Cactus League performance didn't inspire confidence, as he hit .185 (5-for-27) with a double, an RBI, a stolen base and one run across 10 exhibitions. Smith also whiffed on eight occasions, a rather disappointing development considering the 26-year-old came into camp trying to improve on the career-high 24.9 percent strikeout rate he generated in 2019. The lack of spring training numbers notwithstanding, Smith's strong work at the plate over his two seasons in Tampa (2017-18) and elite speed on the basepaths are apparently enough to keep him entrenched as the starting center fielder heading into the campaign.
Smith is hitting .308 (4-for-13) with a double, an RBI and a run over his first five spring games. Smith opened Cactus League action by going 0-for-5 over his first pair of games, but the speedy outfielder has been swinging a hot bat since. The 26-year-old is expected to head into the 2020 campaign as the starting center fielder, although he'll have to significantly improve on the career-worst .227/.300/.335 line he generated in 2019 to keep a hold of the job over the long term.
Smith and the Mariners avoided arbitration Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $2.35 million deal, freelance baseball writer Robert Murray reports. Smith helped out fantasy owners by stealing 46 bases last season, but he didn't do much other than that. In 134 games, he hit .227/.300/.335 with just six homers.
Smith will sit Friday against Oakland. Smith is slumping to the finish line, going 4-for-50 at the plate over his last 16 games. Dylan Moore starts in center field Friday.