Within the Athletics universe there is a select group of players who get the bulk of the glory for the success of the team. They get the most media attention, they get the loudest cheers when they’re introduced, they have the longest lines at FanFest, and they’re the most accounted for by opposing teams. That list would include Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick; not much of a surprise there.
But any knowledgable baseball mind can tell you that the success of the team doesn’t rely exclusively on those three players. There is always a strong supporting cast that truly makes the team function as a unit. In the Athletics case one of the most crucial members of that supporting cast is Seth Smith.
Smith is a talented player who never gets noticed, but his presence played a huge role in the success of the 2012 team. He’s most likely going to get lost in the shuffle of the crowded outfield situation in 2013, but that might enhance the impact he can have over the long haul. During the 2012 season Smith found himself in the middle of many critical rallies that turned the tide in the Athletics favor. Who remembers the game tying home run off of Rafael Soriano in the 9th inning during the dramatic 4 game sweep of the New York Yankees last July? Or how about the game tying 2-run double he hit during the epic 9th inning rally in Game 4 of the ALDS versus the Detroit Tigers? A quality at bat like the one’s Seth Smith can deliver are always a major contributor to late game success.
Overall Smith’s numbers may not jump off the page, he hit .240/.333/.420 in 441 PA in 2012. He went deep 14 times, and drove in 52 runs. In 2013 he’s projected for very similar numbers by various projections found on Fangraphs. If he can contribute like he did in 2012, the chances for the A’s will be very promising.
On the surface, it would appear that Smith would have a tough time getting as many at bats as he did in 2012. Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Yoenis Cespedes figure to get the bulk of the playing time in the outfield, with Chris Young serving as a 4th outfielder of sorts who’ll find himself in a rotation between the 3 outfield positions and the DH spot. Smith doesn’t seem to have a place in that rotation unless one of those 4 is injured. He has been taking some grounders at first base, so perhaps he’ll find his way into the lineup there.
The bottom line is this, Seth Smith is probably talented enough to start on many teams. The Athletics are extremely fortunate to have so many players who could start on quality major league teams. Smith proved that he wasn’t just a good hitter being aided by playing at Coors Field, he can hit anywhere in just about any situation (Although his numbers did take a dip when he started as the DH). Much like Jed Lowrie figures to be the super utility man in the infield, Smith can serve that same purpose in the outfield. Opposing teams will not spend much time preparing for him, which makes him the perfect complement to this roster. Seth Smith is the Athletics’ secret weapon, and that’s just how they like it.