Should the Mets choose Dominic Smith or another 1B option?

Near the end of May in 2017, fans were clamoring for Dominic Smith to come up and replace Lucas Duda for the Mets. This may be one of the least bright things for which fans have ever advocated. At the time, Duda had a .963 OPS for the Mets while Smith had a shiny batting average but a rather empty .874 OPS at Las Vegas.

But Smith started to hit for power later in the year for the 51s and eventually did make it to the majors. However, hit just .198 in 183 PA with the Mets. Now, some of those same fans who were stumping for Smith to get a shot in May of 2017 want him to go back and repeat Triple-A this year. And they say this without a trace of irony.

Hey, nobody bats 1.000 in their predictions and it’s certainly better to admit that you were wrong than to continue to defend a losing proposition. In an ideal world, your favorite team would not gift wrap a starting position to a 22 year old who posted a .658 OPS in his first exposure to the majors. But anyone who roots for the Mets knows that it’s far from an ideal world in which we live.

So, the pertinent question is: Does it make sense for the 2018 Mets to hitch their wagon to Smith on Opening Day or should they be looking for an upgrade at the position?

The main case against looking for an upgrade from Smith is that the Mets have limited dollars available for an upgrade and multiple positions in line already competing for that money. Why should they add another position if they don’t absolutely have to do so? This is a case where the financial reality may dictate a sub-optimal decision.

However, we should acknowledge that a certain section of the fanbase would argue that the Mets have an internal option available that wouldn’t increase payroll and that would be to start Wilmer Flores at first, the position where he would do the least amount of defensive harm. Flores had a career-best .795 OPS last year in 362 PA.

If Flores were to be given the full-time job, he wouldn’t have the luxury of facing mostly LHP, against whom he posted an OPS nearly 100 points higher last year. His fans would point out that 72 percent of his PA came against righties in 2017 and he did significantly better against RHP last season when he got consistent playing time against them. From June 1 until his season ended early with a broken nose, Flores posted an .815 OPS against RHP in 172 PA.

But you would have to argue that those 172 PA against righties trump the 985 PA that came before them. Prior to his strong finish in 2017, Flores had a lifetime .661 OPS against righties. Recall that Smith had a .658 OPS last year, which most find unacceptable.

It’s certainly possible that things have finally clicked for Flores and that he should no longer be considered a liability against RHP. It’s also possible that he was the beneficiary of a HR/FB rate against righties in that stretch that he’s never come close to previously and never will again. Regardless of which side you come down on, he had a .795 OPS last year and the average NL 1B had an .861 mark. So, which is more likely – that Flores will continue to establish new and better career-bests against RHP and come closer to being league average or that Smith will adjust to the majors in his second go-round and come closer to that same goal?

Smith came up on Aug. 11 and in the rest of his initial month he posted a .174/.197/.313 line for a .511 OPS in his first 71 PA in the majors. For the remainder of the year, he notched a .754 OPS in 112 PA. You can get in trouble dicing already small samples. But one can certainly make the argument that Smith has already begun his improvement at the major league level.

We all know that Smith established the pattern in his minor league career of starting out slow and then heating up once he got his feet wet. Recall that he had an .874 OPS his first two months last year in Las Vegas. Shortly afterwards Smith put up a 212-PA stretch with a 1.051 OPS, thanks to both a high average and 27 XBH.

The knock on Smith coming into last year was that he did not have the power that you would prefer from your first baseman, that he was more of a Doug Mientkiewicz type than a Paul Goldschmidt one. But then we saw him establish career highs in both doubles (34) and homers (16) in Triple-A and then he added 15 more extra-base hits once he was promoted to the majors.

It’s easy to dismiss his power production in Las Vegas as nothing more than PCL inflation. But how do you explain Smith’s .197 ISO in Queens? Mientkiewicz had a lifetime .134 ISO in the majors.

Smith had two giant problems last year in his MLB debut. He had an ugly 26.8 K% and a disappointing .218 BABIP. This from the guy who posted a 13.7 K% in Double-A and the guy whose worst BABIP in the minors was the .321 he put up in the Lo-A South Atlantic League back in 2014. Of course, we would expect a player’s BABIP in the majors to be lower than it was in the minors. But there’s no reason to expect Smith to be 84 points below league average.

Even if he made no improvement in his strikeout rate whatsoever, Smith would be in line for a big jump in production just in regression with his BABIP. Let’s give Smith 600 PA and hold his K rate, BB rate, HR and ISO rates steady from his debut season. That would give him 161 Ks and 30 HRs. Sure, you’d bet the under on both of these totals but play along for the example.

Holding his walk rate steady (and HBP and sacs, too) would give him 548 ABs and 357 balls in play. If his average on those balls in play was the 2017 league average rate of .302, he would end up with a .252 AVG (108 hits on balls in play + 30 HR)/548 ABs. Keeping his isolated OBP and SLG numbers the same as his major league production last year – you get a .252/.316/.450 for a .766 OPS.

That’s a 108-point increase in OPS just from regression to a league average BABIP. It still doesn’t bring us up to what Flores provided last year. But it gets the two in the same ballpark. Then you have to ask: How much of Flores’ production last year, especially against RHP, is sustainable? You also need to ask if it’s reasonable to expect Smith to continue his power production and if it’s reasonable to expect his strikeout and walk rates at what they were last year, too.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to run a straight platoon. Smith’s OPS was 271 points higher versus RHP, with 13 of his 15 XBH coming against righties. Also, his BABIP was just .220 versus right handers, meaning we would still expect to see significant positive regression.

Pulling numbers out of the air, let’s say the Smith/Flores platoon could put up an .825 OPS. That would still be noticeably behind the NL average 1B mark of .861 from last year. But would it be enough to go to battle with, especially considering the payroll limitations?

The Mets go into the Hot Stove season expecting average or better production at catcher, Asdrubal Cabrera’s position, LF and Michael Conforto’s position. If they can upgrade one OF and one INF position to average or better, they’re looking at six out of the eight spots being solid, with only 1B and SS being behind the curve. My opinion is that they can win with that, providing good health (Ha!)

Of course, whatever plan you enter the offseason with should be able to be adjusted on the fly depending on things shaking out differently than expected. Last year the Mets entered the offseason thinking they would trade an OF, only to find out the market was clearly undervaluing what they were selling. The front office did not do a good job of adjusting on the fly.

It’s possible the Mets go into this offseason thinking they’ll live with the Smith/Flores platoon only to find a free agent upgrade at 1B to be significantly cheaper than either the 2B/3B or LF/CF they anticipated spending money on. If that’s the case, they need to be able to change course and free up the savings to go to pitching upgrades, regardless if that comes from a starter or reliever.

48 comments for “Should the Mets choose Dominic Smith or another 1B option?

  1. Chris F
    November 12, 2017 at 11:33 am

    “Smith had two giant problems last year in his MLB debut.”

    Make that three. Smith came with the reputation of being a stellar defender. Unfortunately what came up was some large distance from even passable in the field. He made a few good scoops, which you expect at this level, but made all kinds of bad decisions, bad throws, playing out of place, and poor defensive actions. No one really saw that coming, and it focused attention on his total play. I think the team could carry a gap-to-gap doubles guy that plays sterling defense and bats 6th, but we got a power guy that coudn’t hit otherwise or field his position. He clearly gained a lot of weight for an elite athlete and got called up well out of shape. The game was much to fast for him. Until the point he can really clear this up, it is appropriate for him to start in LV this fall.

    Part of the decision with Smith is dictated based on the plan the team has for 2018, which is a mystery to my eyes. Are they planning to take advantage of the perceived pitching strength and be more aligned with “going for it” or is this more a subtle rebuild making sure the future gets playing time? I really have little time for “were doing both”.

    • November 12, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Yes, you are correct about the defense.

  2. November 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Mets can live with the platoon of Smith and Flores.Too many other areas to address for “Christmas Shopping”: A true 3B man (trade for E.Longoria – Matz, Montero, Cecchini, Nimmo), leave Cabrera at 2nd, a CF – Cain, one or two relievers (one will be Shaw of Cleveland), and a vet SP, hope it is Jason Vargas, a lefty, but don’t be surprised if it’s R.A. Dickey, aka innings eater. It appears the Mets will have about $30M.
    Let me spend it for them: Cain -$13m, Shaw – $7m, Vargas – $10m.
    No need to spend at 1B.

  3. Metsense
    November 12, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    The article clearly validates the reason a Smith/Flores platoon is not sufficient or a competitive solution at first base.
    The addition of a player such as Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison , or Adam Lind would give the team an insurance policy at 1B and a corner outfielder. So far, Smith does not look ready.

  4. larrydarylndaryl
    November 12, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I would be OK with starting the season with Smith, based on his MO of improvement after ‘getting his feet wet’. If he needs to go back to AAA them Flores can hold his own at 1B for a time. I like the idea of possibly acquiring Longoria if the price is not too steep. If we bring Bruce back (along with maybe Dickey) then Bruce could also be used in a platoon with Flores, if needed. My fall-back for 3B is Frazier on a reasonable contract…….So bottom line is I would target Bruce for the outfielder, Frazier for 3B (barring a trade) & Dickey as the veteran innings eater. I think we could stay in-budget with these acquisitions & also be adding veteran leadership.I vote no on pursuing a 1st baseman…..Met fan since ’64 LGM!!

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  5. Steevy
    November 12, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    I agree with what you all are saying about Smith.I would add that Rosario also negatively impressed me.

  6. Chris F
    November 12, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    # Wins per year

    2010: 79
    2011: 77
    2012: 74
    2013: 74
    2014: 79
    2015: 90
    2016: 87
    2017: 70

    …and Im hysterical!

    • November 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      Posting their win totals doesn’t bolster your case.

      • Chris F
        November 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

        Thats a total embarrassment. 80-90 losses…year after year.

        • November 12, 2017 at 7:41 pm

          OK, let’s see how rare it is to lose 80 or more five years in a row or six times in eight years like the recent Mets. Let’s look at each NL franchise the last 20 years.

          WAS – 5X in a row (’97-’01)
          ATL – Working on a streak of four in a row
          MIA – Working on a streak of eight in a row
          PHI – Working on a streak of six in a row
          PIT – Had a streak of 18 straight years with at least 80 losses, saved only by the ’95 strike
          STL – Nothing close in last 20 years
          CHC – Five in a row (’10-’14)
          MIL – Six of eight (’09-’16)
          CIN – 9X in a row (’01-’09)
          LAD – Nothing close in last 20 years
          SFG – 4X in a row (’05-’08)
          SDP – Working on 7 in a row and 9 of the last 10 years
          COL – 6X in a row (’11-’16) and 9X in a row (’98-’06)
          ARI – 8X in 9 years (’08-’16)

          So, 10 of the other 14 teams in the league had a similar or worse level of losing and two others had four straight years, with the Braves ready to make it five in a row in 2018. The general rule is that all teams go through something like this, with the exception of the Dodgers and the Cardinals.

          • Joe Zegar
            November 13, 2017 at 9:17 am

            So you’re all in on mediocrity………… sorry, I want to be like the Cardinals and Dodgers, not the rest.

            • November 13, 2017 at 9:31 am

              Well, that’s an impressively bad misreading of both my point and the situation.

  7. Chris F
    November 12, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I’m just saying, we do nothing have no money and its not a surprise we stink despite nearly every year hearing “we’re contenders” or “95+ wins” or “World Series” when all evidence point exactly to the contrary.

    Bringing back Reyes and Cabrera, filling out with Smith and Flores does not send the message of “contending”. Its time to realize we are closer to the Padres than the Astros.

    • November 12, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      Clearly the Mets are going to do something – they’re going to spend in the neighborhood of $30 million. Perhaps they need to spend $60 million but claiming that $30 million is nothing is the type of statement that gets you labeled “hysterical.”

      Nothing between 75 and 95 wins would surprise me because the team depends on the health of so many guys who ended last year on the DL. It’s not an ideal position to be in but it’s miles from helpless.

      • Chris F
        November 12, 2017 at 8:46 pm

        going down in payroll from a substandard value last season in the biggest market in the world classifies as “nothing” when you have below standard players at 6 of 8 positions on the field and almost nothing in the pipeline.

        filling the team out with the Rauch’s, Young’s etc of the world is fairly hard to be inspired as doing something.

        Perhaps its not “nothing,” but it isn’t far from offering a drowning man a glass of water.

        • MattyMets
          November 13, 2017 at 8:29 am

          If I’m the eternal optimist, Chris is the pessimist.

          We are about to add $30 million to a strong 1-2 rotation punch, 3-4 in the lineup, and back end of the bullpen, plus a lot of solid depth players. All that’s missing is filling out the mid tier with 3 or 4 smart acquisitions. The types of guys we had last year – Reed, Bruce, Walker… At reasonable health this team has a lot more talent than the bottom teams.

  8. Jimmy P
    November 12, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    As bad as Smith was last season, I don’t think it would be wise to give up on him just yet.

    I mean, I’m not a believer, but he’s still one of the top hitting prospects in the Mets system. We have no money, no ownership able to truly run a team in the NY market. This guy is ours and he’s cheap.

    There have been many, many very good players who have struggled in their first 250 ABs.

    At same time, the Mets need a strong backup plan.

  9. TJ
    November 12, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    I believe nothing this ownership says and only about half of what they do. They have proven numerous times over many years that they are disingenuous and deceitful, including the nerve of placing the payroll onus on loyal fans.

    That said, and despite the train wreck that 2017 turned out to be, as of this date there is no reason why the team can’t field a playoff caliber team in 2018. To their credit, so far this offseason, they took positive steps addressing two key areas – the next manager, and the AAA-Las Vegas debacle.

    Anyone paying attention, all of us pretend GMs, realize two things – the team needs a significant influx of major league talent, and this ownership is extremely unlikely to fund a payroll fit for a major market team with a shallow system that needs big time talent upgrades.

    Making a call on Dom Smith with the short MLB sample is really not possible. He can range from future all-star to bust. However, given the uncertainty regarding Conforto (and Wright and the potential payroll impact his “health” will have), 1B is one of few positions the Mets can actually upgrade. If including Smith in a deal that nets them a upgrade anywhere with a player controllable beyond 2018, it needs to be done.

    • TexasGusCC
      November 13, 2017 at 12:08 am

      ^
      +1
      ——————————————————————-

      This evening a report came out that Alex Anthopoulos will become the next GM of the Braves. Bad news. While we all snicker at the Dickey trade, he is aggressive and even if his has a hiccup, he will have successes too as the Josh Donaldson trade showed and the Tulowitski trade, even the Reyes trad eh dripped off the Marlins.

      • TexasGusCC
        November 13, 2017 at 12:14 am

        *even the Reyes trade he ripped off the Marlins.

  10. Joe Gomes
    November 13, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Things I don’t understand.
    Mets can live with Smith, Cabrera, Reyes bad defense / range last year but not Flores who hits better than all of them?

    • Chris F
      November 13, 2017 at 11:39 am

      The Mets can live with all of them, and will. Unfortunately, there’s just not much talent in the bunch, which means 2018 will look a lot like 2017.

  11. Fletcher Rabbit
    November 13, 2017 at 9:56 am

    we aint gonna win no world series in 2018, no matter who plays first; why not see what smith can do? remember that his track record has consistently shown that he develops slowly at each shift in level, but then takes off. my guess: if he plays a full season he goes
    .220/.280/.350 with 30 rbi before the break, and then .300/.370/.480 with 50 rbi in the second half. letting smith go will be the equivalent of having given up on amos otis or ken singleton in decades past. give smith the opportunity to fail — pleeeeez!

    • TexasGusCC
      November 13, 2017 at 10:10 am

      The Giants won three World Series with way less of a lineup. Too, the Indians should have won. Don’t understand all the negative thoughts on this injury savaged team, but it’s hard to believe lightning striking twice in the same spot. Don’t forget, much of last year’s problems included injury and bad managing that left the team handicapped. Insisting on putting the statue of Asdrubal Cabrera in a middle infield spo and, batting Reyes at the top all spring when he wasn’t hitting, are just an example of decisions that aren’t just wrong but hurt the team overall.

      But, while I would give Smith a little rope, it can’t be much more. About two months’ worth.

      • Chris F
        November 13, 2017 at 11:47 am

        Gus, The team did not lose >90 games because of Collins. Sure injury was bad, but the idea “lightning wont strike twice”, especially with the Mets, is silly. It has already, and far more than once…Wright, Ces, TdA, Harvey, Lagares, etc.

        The Giant teams had amazing pitching, Buster Posey, the best SS in the game, lock-down pen, players that elevated in the post season (Sandoval), and remarkably timely hitting. They were fundamentally solid teams, enough to win 3 WS. The distance between those teams and the present Mets is measured in miles.

        • TexasGusCC
          November 13, 2017 at 12:10 pm

          Chris, buddy, where do I start? If you don’t think Collins contributed directly to at least six losses, we were watching different games. As for fundamentals, um, maybe Bozo the Manager again?

          To speak to how stupid Collins managed this team, our highest on-base guy and potentially future lead-off hitter often batted clean-up in the last month. Batting with ahead of Lagares, Smith and Rosario, rather than D’Arnaud and Cabrera.

          Amazing pitching? Why did that amazing pitching not be amazing every year but rather every other year? The Braves were consistent…

          Best SS in the game? Who was that? Crawford is a nice player and potentially underrated, but the best in the game? Was he Correa-like? Seager-like? He wasn’t even Gregorius-like.

          Wright isn’t a consideration except to Fred Coupon. Cespedes was hurt last year only, as I don’t count a fifteen day vacation once a year as alarming. D’Arnaud has played in as many games in the last two years as most starting catchers have. Lagares is a player few even want around, so why the hypocrisy? Few here value what Flores and Lagares offer. Harvey had a second injury, but his position can be filled.

          Yes, the pitching staff is a medical mess, but I believe we can all agree what hurt the Mets most last year was the inability to put hitters away with two strikes and that was throughout the pitching staff, speaking to a flaw in the approach. It wasn’t the injuries.

          • Chris F
            November 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm

            Cespedes has serious leg issues. You are blind if you cannot see that. He moved from CF because he cant run. He loses balls all teh time becuase he cant run. Wright is a consideration. He has been injured year after year, back, neck, shoulder… TdA is an injury nightmare, Im not sure what you are seeing. As for Crawford being “nice”, he just won his third straight gold glove. Yeah, hes better than anyone else you list. By the way, he also has a SS award. Try to find anyone on teh Mets with those credentials…Ill save you time. There arent any, except for DWright a decade ago.

            Collins maybe get you 5 or so more wins, but the main issue is that across the diamond the team lacks special players. No team wins in the post season without them.

  12. Long Island Lenny
    November 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Sign Reyes,Rene Rivera,Addison Reed.Offer D’arnaud,Smith ,Matz and try and get a proven guy at first base

  13. David Groveman
    November 13, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    With the proximity of another internal option I vote for giving Smith a shot. If he doesn’t work out long term we can have Peter Alonso up in the near future.

  14. Eraff
    November 14, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    My translation of the messaging on this 2017/2018 Hotstove is that they will patch this team to see if the pitching recovers and is workable.

    30 million added to questionable pitcher health/performace, Rosario/Smith UnKnowns, Conforto/Cespedes health and recovery is probably the extent of the hedging they will do until they see their own team on the field.

    This gives them an opportunity to add to the team, or to sell off for a rebuild…they’re financially and structurally nimble in that regard.

    • November 14, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      I like the way you phrased your last graph.

      • Jimmy P
        November 14, 2017 at 5:25 pm

        They are cutting payroll. If you want to call that “nimble,” fine. I don’t see it that way.

        • November 14, 2017 at 5:59 pm

          For the record – yet again

          1. The Mets’ payroll should be higher than it is.
          2. The Mets are looking at a lower payroll for Opening Day than they had for OD in ’17

          In other news, 2 + 2 = 4, the sky is blue, the sun rises in the east…

          Going forward – can we please stipulate that all of the regular commenters know this, agree with this and don’t feel the need to state it for the millionth time? Pretty please?

          • TJ
            November 14, 2017 at 6:30 pm

            Stiplulated but it still will be difficult to avoid 100%. lol.

            • TexasGusCC
              November 14, 2017 at 7:59 pm

              LOL

          • Chris F
            November 14, 2017 at 7:44 pm

            as long as we dont hear more about “adding” 30M$ !!!

            • November 15, 2017 at 12:03 am

              Here’s how I’ve referred to the payroll situation:

              “the $30 million they have to spend”
              “they’re going to spend in the neighborhood of $30 million. ”
              “Assuming the Mets had $30 million to spend this offseason”

              I haven’t talked about “adding” $30 million.

              • Chris F
                November 15, 2017 at 10:31 am

                But you arent the only person making posts! In any event I hope the point is made.

                I spent a decade living in DC, and every year it was nauseating to listen to the local sports and hear the Redskins were favorites for a Super Bowl, despite miserable season after miserable season. It was maddening because it simply defied reality. Sadly, as a whole, we Mets fans arent much different. Staring at us in the mirror is mediocrity, yet every year, long before a game is played and even 10+ games back mid season all I read about is post season. I dont see it. I dont get it. This team is a sub .500 ball club with shady ownership, a front office with a lousy plan for success, and a rabid fan base that Im part of who regularly over estimates the quality of its players. For my part, I thought Lagares was the next coming of Griffey…and I was wrong by miles (although to this very day I read regularly from different places that Lagares is the best defensive centerfielder in the MLB…if you can believe that).

                • November 15, 2017 at 10:41 am

                  I say this without meaning to put down anyone.

                  My opinion is that no one thinks the team is “adding” to the overall payroll. Instead, if they are using that term, it’s a shorthand or lazy way of saying that they expect that’s what the team will spend.

                  The Mets had an OD payroll of $154 million last year. Do you think anyone who knows who the owners are and who follows the team on even a semi-regular basis thinks it’s going to be $184 million this year?

                  I don’t.

                • Eraff
                  November 15, 2017 at 10:47 am

                  Fan—-Fan(atic)…you’re supposed to be unreasonable

      • Eraff
        November 14, 2017 at 6:12 pm

        “Financially and Structurally Nimble” …. ya know…I’m reading that and I’m kind of turned on.

        • Chris F
          November 14, 2017 at 7:46 pm

          Thats awesome Eraff

          • Eraff
            November 14, 2017 at 8:06 pm

            I’ve been Married 34 Years, but if I was online Dating this would be my profile

            • Chris F
              November 14, 2017 at 8:52 pm

              can you play 3B? you’d be great in the clubhouse.

              • Eraff
                November 15, 2017 at 7:21 am

                I’m a SS, but I’m willing to play wherever the Team needs Me.

  15. Name
    November 14, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    Of all the Mets that were traded away last year, the guy who probably would probably provide the best bang for the buck is … Lucas Duda.

    The buzz on him is quite low and of the many FA 1b, he didn’t have a career year last year. I’d be quite surprised if he was able to land more than a 1 year deal, and most likely he’s probably looking for a 1 year deal to build value. Even still, i think his services won’t cost more than 5 mil, and could even dip to as low as 3 mil. At that price give me Duda over Smith in a heartbeat.

  16. TexasGusCC
    November 19, 2017 at 1:33 am

    From an interview with Jack Voigt, former Mets AAA hitting coach:

    Voigt: Dom is a pure hitter. In his career, he typically always had some slow starts, but he’s always put up good numbers and come up strong. It did take him a bit of time to adjust to Triple-A, but started the season at just 21-years-old this year.

    He did start to understand the philosophy and the process of utilizing his power in certain situations, against certain kinds of pitchers, he knew he was going to see a pitch he could really handle and handle well, especially some offspeed pitches middle away in the zone that he has good power to the off gap in left center and left field. He really started to do that well this year.

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