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Through consistency, Dwight Smith Jr. is putting together an impressive April in Buffalo

His Triple-A debut didn't come with a lot of flash and fanfare. He didn't hammer two home runs in his first game like teammate Rowdy Tellez. But that's just fine. Dwight Smith Jr. is going to go about things his quiet way with a consistency that has him as one of the best hitters in the International League to start the season.

Smith entered Friday's game leading the Buffalo Bisons in hitting with a .357 batting average – which also ranks ninth in the IL through the first two weeks of the 2017 campaign. He was coming off a 4 for 4 performance, his first four-hit game since his Class-A days in Dunedin in 2014.

"Just every day, every game, every pitch, he's locked in," Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said. "Even when he's on the bases, he's looking after every little detail. It's just really good to see."

The 24-year-old Smith is poised and focused, finding success by staying within himself, especially at the plate.

"I'm feeling great at the plate," Smith said before the Bisons opened a three-game series with the Columbus Clippers at Coca-Cola Field Friday night. "Just trying to not do too much. I'm pretty much doing what I did at the end of last season and it carried into this year and into spring training and it just seemed to work out for me.

"And definitely the weather hasn't been that bad," said Smith who played the last two seasons in New Hampshire where he noted, "yeah, that's way worse."

Smith, who was the Toronto Blue Jays' first-round pick in 2011, spent the past two seasons in Double-A New Hampshire. He struggled in April with the Fisher Cats, hitting just .145. But he found his groove in May, hitting .333, and had a strong finish to the season, setting a career best with 15 home runs while driving in 74 runs.

Over two seasons in Double-A, Smith batted .265 while driving in 118 runs over 213 games while learning all three outfield positions.

But the biggest thing Smith learned was how to handle the droughts, skids and failures.

"I definitely learned how to deal with failure there because I probably struggled there the most in pro ball," said Smith, ranked 26th on the MLB.com Top 30 prospect list for Toronto. "I just learned how to handle my ups and downs every day. That's the biggest thing I took from playing in Double-A every day."

Playing in Triple-A every day now brings a new set of challenges, one which starts with adjusting to Triple-A pitching.

"Guys have better off-speed up here and they can command their fastball a lot better," Smith said. "They move it around a little bit more. They don't necessarily throw as hard as they do at the lower levels  but they are more crafty up here. You've just got to relax and get your pitch that you want to swing at, not theirs. They know how to get hitters out at this level."

Smith also knows a thing about getting people out. He showed off his defensive ability on Wednesday when he made a running catch at the line in right field and fired an off-balanced throw to first base to double-off the runner. Not an easy task in any field but particularly difficult in Coca-Cola Field as Smith learns the odd wind patterns which can make playing the outfield pretty tricky.

"Sometimes it will swirl and blow in then blow out. It goes all over the place," Smith said of the infamous Coca-Cola Field wind. "You've just got to stay on your toes.

"I definitely take a lot of pride in defense, just as much as I do with my offense. Defense can change the game just as much as offense can. I just try to work on my all-around game and take that out to the field and just have fun."

 

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