Braves promote OF prospect Smith to Triple-A

Braves promote OF prospect Smith to Triple-A

WASHINGTON -- Mallex Smith has moved one step closer to fulfilling the projections that he will soon become Atlanta's leadoff hitter and starting center fielder.

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Smith, the Braves' No. 16 prospect according to MLB.com, was promoted from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday. The fleet-footed outfielder has proven why the Braves were thrilled to acquire him as part of the talent-rich package the Padres provided in exchange for Justin Upton in December.

"We feel the progress he has shown from the beginning of Spring Training to now warrants the promotion," Braves assistant director of player development Jonathan Schuerholz said. "This is a special player who has the potential to be a top of the batting order table-setter, and he has shown the ability to succeed in that role at Double-A. We feel he is ready for challenges at the Triple-A level."

With Smith now set to serve as Gwinnett's primary center fielder, top prospect Jose Peraza will once again spend a majority of his time playing second base. Peraza had spent most of this month adapting to center field because the Braves have gained the confidence that Jace Peterson will remain their starting second baseman over the next few years.

Smith's promotion clouds the future of both Peraza and Atlanta's current center fielder Cameron Maybin, whose breakout season might lead the Braves to attempt to take advantage of his enhanced value by trading him before the July 31 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline or at some point during the offseason.

But before making any conclusions about a promotion that was seemingly based simply on merit, the Braves want to see how Smith's speed plays against the improved defenses he will face at the Triple-A level.

Smith batted .340, compiled a .418 on-base percentage and proved successful on 23 of 29 stolen-base attempts in the 57 games he played for Mississippi. The 22-year-old outfielder went 1-for-3 during the Southern League All-Star Game on Tuesday night.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.