The Rangers announced a series of moves today, including the news that infielder Josh Smith and outfielder Zach Reks have been called up from Triple-A. This will be the Major League debut for Smith, a second-round pick (for the Yankees) in the 2019 draft. To create roster space, Texas placed Brad Miller on the injured list and designated right-hander Albert Abreu for assignment.
Smith was one of the players acquired from New York in the Joey Gallo trade last July, and both MLB Pipeline (#7) and Baseball America (#9) rank Smith within the top 10 of all Rangers prospects. The LSU has done nothing but hit during his young pro career, resulting in a quick rise up the minor league ladder. Smith made his debut at the Triple-A level this season, and has hit .273/.382/.422 over 191 PA for Round Rock.
Smith has strong command of the strike zone for such a young player, as evidenced by his .420 OBP over 683 total PA in the minors. As noted by Baseball America’s scouting report, Smith “did an excellent job working counts to get pitches to drive, then punished balls from gap to gap. He rarely chases, and when he swings at pitches in the zone he almost never misses.” He has yet to develop true power, though Smith does make lots of hard contact and could be more of an extra-bases type hitter. Smith is also a threat on the basepaths, with 40 steals in 52 career chances.
Originally drafted as a shortstop, Smith has basically split time between shortstop, third base, and center field this year, owing to the presence of Corey Seager in the Rangers’ everyday lineup. Both BA and Pipeline observe that scouts weren’t entirely sold on Smith’s long-term viability as a shortstop anyway, and it remains to be seen what his ideal defensive position will be, if the Rangers don’t instead use him as a multi-position type of weapon.
For now, Smith will probably see much of his time at third base, essentially taking Miller’s spot as a left-handed hitting third base option alongside Andy Ibanez. Miller’s IL placement didn’t come with a designation, so it could be related to COVID-19, though Miller also left yesterday’s game due to tightness in his right hip.
Abreu came to Texas in another trade with the Yankees, the April swap that saw catcher Jose Trevino head to the Bronx. A former top-100 pitching prospect, Abreu has been plagued by a lack of control, and these problems again manifested themselves during his brief stint with the Rangers. While Abreu managed a 3.12 ERA over 8 2/3 relief innings this season, he had more walks (12) than strikeouts (9). The DFA doesn’t necessarily mean that the Rangers are giving up on Abreu, but since he is out of minor league options, the Rangers had to designate the righty and risk losing him on waivers before outrighting him to Triple-A.