Sunshine State Spotlight: Pavin Smith and Logan Gilbert

Sunshine State Spotlight: Pavin Smith and Logan Gilbert


MO2 spent last weekend in Arizona, and caught up with a couple of former first-round picks with state of Florida ties: D-backs’ outfielder Pavin Smith and Mariners’ right-hander Logan Gilbert

By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd

PHOENIX — A recent visit to Arizona provided ManOn2nd the opportunity to catch up with a couple of rookies who have tremendous upsides: Pavin Smith and Logan Gilbert.

Smith, 25, is a first base/outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Gilbert, 24, is a right-hander for the Seattle Mariners.

Smith grew up in Jupiter, Fla., watching the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals in Spring Training at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. As a kid, he recalls seeing Giancarlo Stanton in Spring Training and during High A ball. When he was really young, he saw Miguel Cabrera at the complex.

Gilbert attended Wekiva High School in Apopka, Fla. Not heavily recruited out of high school, the 6-foot-6 right-hander, who also played first base, attended Stetson University, a school with a strong track record developing star pitchers.

MO2 interviewed both players at Chase Field, home of the D-backs.

1B/OF Pavin Smith, 7th overall pick by Arizona in 2017: Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Smith’s family moved to South Florida before he was old enough to attend school. A multi-sports athlete, Smith also played a lot of basketball growing up. He attended Palm Beach Gardens High School, and committed to the University of Virginia when he was a sophomore. It was a strong commitment, and he was part of UVA’s 2015 National Championship team.

“I really don’t think it would have turned out the same if I didn’t move to Florida when I was 4,” Smith said of his Florida-based foundation.

The fact you can play baseball year-round provided Smith with so many opportunities to mix in other sports, and still stay active in baseball.

“It allows you to do more things in baseball,” he said. “I played multiple sports. I played a lot of basketball.”

Even with a full sports schedule, there were baseball opportunities. Any time of the year, he could always hit in the cages, and he also received hitting lessons.

ManOn2nd interviewing Pavin Smith

“I think [being from Florida] propels guys,” Smith said. “If you’re able to practice more, you get better. I started playing travel ball at 9. You’d play tournaments in January or March, but most of it was still the summer. You’d still sprinkle in tournaments in the Fall and in the Winter. A lot of guys on our team would play football or basketball, but there were still tournaments that were sprinkled in. So you’d still play. You didn’t really stop playing.”

Attending games at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium exposed Smith to seeing big league and Minor League players. Some of his fondest memories those days was just the experience of being at the park. He’d also play Wiffle Ball in a section of Roger Dean near the left field bullpen and bleachers.

“It was fun going to those games to watch,” he said. “But there was that area by the bullpen where we’d play Wiffle Ball when we were like, 9 and 10 years old. We watched some of the game, but we were still playing.”

As a rookie with the D-backs, Smith is having a solid season. In nearly 500 plate appearances, he’s slashing .268/.324/.404 with a .728 OPS. He has 10 home runs, 44 RBIs and 63 runs scored.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Smith said. “I feel like there’s more room to grow. You kind off figure out what teams are trying to do to exploit you, and you try to counter that.”

RHP Logan Gilbert, 14th overall pick by Seattle in 2018: For a small school, Stetson University has a way of landing elite talent that other, bigger schools, tend to miss.

The Hatters boast being the school that produced Cy Young Award winners, Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom.

Logan Gilbert has the makings of being the next great Stetson starter.

The 24-year-old hard-throwing right-hander has made 19 starts since making his MLB debut on May 13, and he has tremendous potential.

MO2 asked Gilbert what’s Stetson’s secret?

“I think most people end up there because they haven’t put it all together yet,” Gilbert said. “There’s  flashes of what they can do. It’s really just working hard, and hoping in the long run, it works out.

“It’s kind of funny. I wasn’t heavily recruited. I didn’t have any big school offers, but I’m really happy it worked out with Stetson. Even if it is a smaller school, there’s such a rich history with the baseball program. Guys like deGrom and Kluber. You see guys who have set the way, especially for a smaller school, where it might be harder for guys to make it. It shows that you can still be the best in the game.”

Even though Gilbert wasn’t as hyped as some other players coming out of high school, he still grew up playing either with or against top players.

He was facing Brendan Rodgers of the Colorado Rockies when he was 4 and 5 years old. Rodgers, from Lake Mary High School in Winter Park, was the third overall pick in 2015.

ManOn2nd interviews Logan Gilbert

“Some of those guys in the Central Florida area, you’d come up with, whether it’s high school games, or in travel ball games, all the way up until now,” Gilbert said. “It’s kind of whatever you’re used to when you’re little. I think it helps. Florida kids have an advantage, especially early on, because you’re used to such good competition.”

Another current big leaguer Gilbert saw frequently growing up was Bo Bichette of the Toronto Blue Jays.

At Stetson, Gilbert continued to make progress to the point he was heavily scouted for the 2018 MLB Draft.

“My sophomore year in college is when I really started to develop more confidence in myself,” he said. “My freshman year, I was out of the ‘pen. My sophomore year I started on Sundays. That’s when I really came into my own.”

Now a rookie on a Seattle team remains in the American League Wild Card race, Gilbert is gaining valuable experience pitching in meaningful games.

One of his highlights was his MLB debut, when his family traveled out west from Florida.

“It’s been wild,” he said. “This year, there’s been so many ups and downs, and learning. The debut. Having my family there. That’s got to be the best moment so far. All the hard work paid off. To share that with my family.”


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