In 2013, the Mets took Dominic Smith with their first-round pick in the annual draft. A high school product, Smith was assigned to the Gulf Coast League, which the Mets operate as the lowest of their three short-season clubs. He got a cup of coffee at the end of the year with
Brooklyn Kingsport, which the Mets use as their middle rookie-level club. There was a bit of discussion where the Mets would send Smith to start 2014. Under Sandy Alderson, the Mets have been very conservative with their first-round picks but they bucked the trend with Smith.
Because it was different than what they had done previously, many tried to paint Smith’s assignment to a full-season league as aggressive. Let’s be crystal clear about one thing. To put a high school first-round pick in Lo-A ball the year after he’s drafted is not aggressive. Rather, it’s appropriate. Still, the early story was that the placement was aggressive. And in the beginning of the season it looked like a disaster. In his first 15 games, Smith put up a .148/.164/.148 line in 55 PA, hitting so dreadful that you couldn’t even blame it on the pitcher’s park known as Grayson Stadium.
But ever since then, Smith has been getting hits by the bucketful. In his last 258 PA, Smith has a .325/.397/.399 line. He’s still yet to hit his first home run this season but he was never thought to be a typical slugging first baseman. He does at least have 17 doubles, still a few shy of the extra-base hits you would hope he would produce but nothing to be ashamed of for a youngster. And in his last 20 games, Smith has a .979 OPS with 10 doubles in 87 PA.
The Mets made a bunch of minor league promotions 10 days or so ago and Smith was not one of them. At this point, it’s unlikely that he’ll get the call to St. Lucie, barring an injury to their starting first baseman. Sure, he may come up for a couple of games, much like he did last year with Kingsport. But the odds of him getting 20 or more games in at Hi-A are no better than slim.
Still, Smith has set himself up for a potential mid-season promotion next year. If all breaks right, Smith will finish the 2015 season with 200 or so PA at Double-A, a very nice thing for a guy who won’t turn 20 until next June. It’s quite a difference from 2012 first-round pick Gavin Cecchini, who finds himself with a .540 OPS in Hi-A and leaving his supporters struggling to find a reason he shouldn’t be returned to Savannah, especially now that Phillip Evans has returned from the DL.
Hopefully, Smith’s performance this year in a full-season league will help convince the Mets not to slow-play their top draft picks going forward. It will be curious to see how they slot 2014 first-round pick Michael Conforto at the start of 2015. As a high-profile collegiate player, one could make a good case for him starting next year in Double-A. Certainly, he should be no lower than Hi-A, as there’s no way on earth he should start the season in Lo-A.
How nice it would be if Smith and Conforto both were teammates at Binghamton next season.
A very special thanks to Warren Zvon, owner and operator of metsfantasycards.blogspot.com, for coming up with the card design used for this article. We’re hopeful of working closely with Warren in the future, allowing you to see his terrific work here on a regular basis.