Before his season was cut dramatically short by an unfortunate thumb injury in mid-June, Mallex Smith provided a ton of excitement for what was, at the time, a dreadful Braves team. Smith only hit .237/.312/.379 (85 wRC+), but provided solid defense in Ender Inciarte’s absence and showed many a glimpse of potential.
After returning in September, Smith accumulated just a smattering of PAs and put up much of the same, with a .250/.348/.250 (71 wRC+) effort. Given the time he missed, he signed on with the Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican Winter League to get additional reps.
However, Dave O’Brien of the AJC reports that just two and a half weeks into his Mexican Winter League stint, Mallex Smith has been released. Smith struggled mightily in his 50-odd PAs down in Mexico: he got just five hits and two walks, good for a .157 OBP, in 48 PAs. He struck out in a quarter of his plate appearances, though of his five hits, two were triples and one was a home run. Hardly a gladdening performance or an auspicious sign, but pretty much anything can happen in a few dozens of plate appearances. Still, you’d figure Smith would at least hit the ground running a little bit better, especially with a lower level of competition.
Mallex Smith is still expected to compete for an outfield spot on the 2017 club, though the Braves have a fairly crowded outfield with Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte, and Nick Markakis in the mix, not to mention that Jace Peterson got some reps in the outfield prior to the acquisition of Kemp.
In other news, Mark Bowman reports that Matt Wisler has not gone home to sulk after his fairly disappointing 2016 season. On the contrary, he’s out in the Caribbean, pitching for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. Wisler racked up 183 innings across Atlanta and Gwinnett this year, and the handful of starts he’ll make this winter will push him over 200 frames thrown for the year.
Wisler had a pretty schizophrenic season, statistically speaking: he had a great May, a brutal June/July that got him demoted, and then a couple of good starts in August before once again struggling in September. Overall, he finished with a 5.00 / 4.85 / 4.71 pitching slash line (ERA / FIP / xFIP), but once again showed many flashes of potential, like an eight-inning, one-run outing in Arizona in his return from Gwinnett, and a 10-strikeout effort against the Padres in his start after that.
Weirdly (to me), Bowman notes:
Wisler's primary burden appears to be his mental fortitude, which became a more glaring concern to the Braves as he produced a 7.71 ERA over the 10 starts he made from June 5-July 28. This stretch resulted in a three-week stint in Gwinnett, where the righty was tasked with learning a more aggressive approach.
To me, Wisler’s primary concern should be his poor strikeout rate (11th-worst among all starters with 150+ IP in 2016), his trouble eliciting weak contact (24th-worst in soft% among that group of starters, and more damningly, second-highest hard%), and being pretty hittable when inside the zone (10th-highest z-contact%). He also had trouble generating whiffs (24th-worst SwStr%). Hopefully he can right the ship and make gains in all of those areas in 2017, and maybe his stint in the Dominican will help.
Just for fun, Wisler is joined on the Tigres by Braves minor league pitcher Rob Wooten and former Brave Rafael Soriano on the pitching staff; as well as Royals prospect Hunter Dozier, Braves farmhand Mel Rojas Jr., and former Braves Diory Hernandez and Juan Francisco.
Meanwhile, Eric Young Jr., who played for the Braves for a few months in 2015 was Mallex Smith’s teammate for Hermosillo.