Canaan Smith

Canaan Smith rounds third base and greets Charleston RiverDogs manager Julio Mosquera after hitting a home run. Photo provided/Charleston RiverDogs

The numbers aren’t quite as gaudy as the 25 homers and 115 RBIs Delmon Young posted during his 2004 campaign with the Charleston RiverDogs.

They’re actually more on par with Josh Hamilton, a former Major League Baseball MVP who played for Charleston back in 2000.

There’s a few more Holy City legends who had historical years for the New York Yankees’ Class A affiliate. And after this season, Charleston needs to immortalize one more guy: Canaan Smith.

With two weeks left in the season, and with the team in the midst of a playoff push, Smith has more time to beef up his stats and make a few more memories.

But even if the season ended today, the Dallas, Texas, native would still deserve to have his name etched in the RiverDogs history books, alongside the aforementioned greats.

Best in the Sally League

Heading into the weekend, Smith was hitting .310 with nine home runs and 62 RBIs. That's impressive enough, but for baseball nerds, a closer look at the numbers shows just how epic his season has been.

Smith ranks second in batting in the entire South Atlantic League, with enough games left to steal first place. That would be only the second batting title in Charleston’s history. The only other one came via Cliff Pastornicky in 1982, back when Charleston's minor league team played at College Park and was a Kansas City Royals’ affiliate.

In addition, he’s in a neck-and-neck race for SAL MVP with Terrin Vavra, a shortstop for the Colorado Rockies’ affiliate Asheville Tourists.

Vavra leads Smith in batting average, but Smith has the edge in RBIs, on-base percentage, and several other categories. If he can edge it out, he’d also be the second Charleston player in history to win MVP. The other came in 1984 from Kevin Seitzer, who is currently the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves.

RiverDogs manager Julio Mosquera looks at the stats just like everybody else. But for him, Smith’s approach at the plate is more than finding good pitches. It’s a science.

“He has really good patience and just has a natural feel for the strike zone,” Mosquera said.

The numbers back him up. Smith leads the entire league with 67 walks. That feeds into his .412 on-base percentage, which also leads the league.

The sixth

Smith has cooled off since his last home run on Aug. 9. But that long ball brought him one step closer to joining an elite group of RiverDogs.

As of now, only five in history have batted .300 with at least 10 homers and 10 stolen bases in a single season.

Pastornicky did it in 1982, In 1995, Fernando Tatis accomplished the feat, followed by Hamilton in 2000, Young in 2004 and Tyler Austin in 2012. Smith needs one more homer to join that club, and of course needs to keep his average above .300.

For perspective, Hamilton retired with a Major League Baseball MVP Award, as a three-time Silver Slugger champion and five-time All-Star. He also won a league batting title.

Young wasn’t as decorated, but he did have some great years in his major league career, his best coming in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins. That season he batted .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBIS, and finished 10th in MVP voting.

At age 20, Smith is on a trajectory to be just as good. But first, he has unfinished business in Charleston.

“I love the city of Charleston and the fans,” he said. “It would be an honor to finish strong for them, and hopefully they’ll remember me.”

He shouldn't fret over being remembered in the Lowcountry. His production leaves us no choice.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry

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