In 1984 Donruss introduced the card collecting world to the idea of a Rated Rookie. The hobby was shifting more to rookies becoming more and more popular to collect. Donruss decided to make a portion of their set dedicated to the up and coming rookies for that season. They set aside 20 cards for this (card numbers 27 – 46). Some were hits (Kevin McReynolds and Joe Carter), but many were duds. This post will look at one of what could only be descibed as the worst rated rookie pick ever.
A lot of hyped rookies don’t make it in the pros, but at least they play in the majors after being hyped as rated rookies. Chris Smith had some short stints in the majors with the Montreal Expos in 1981, 82, and 83. Mid 1983, he was traded by the Expos to the Giants and had himself a crazy season in AAA Phoenix, where he hit 0.379 (170 hits in 449 at bats), with 21 homers. I am assuming the folks at Donruss, were looking for one final Rated Rookie, saw his stats and decided to make him rated rookie number 20. However they failed to note one vital problem with his inclusion.
At the end of 1983 his contract was up and he decided to spend the next two seasons in Japan. He actually never played in the US ever again. His two seasons with the Yakult Swallows were for the most part uneventful. He did however come back to the US and got back into baseball first as a minor league manager and more recently as a scout for the Seattle Mariners and LA Dodgers. As for his Rated Rookie status, on a scale from 1 to 10 I would have to rate him a 1. I remember when I was a kid, if I got a rated rookie, he immediately went into a protective case. I have five Chris Smith rookie cards sitting up in my collection and I would lay money down that they are still in the plastic protectors.