This past year the Mets promoted their #1 and #2 prospects, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, to the majors for the tail end of the 2017 season. While the audition was short, Mets fans and management didn’t take long to turn on their young first baseman. He was overweight, he wasn’t hitting for average and the defense was pretty poor. Clearly the Mets were mad to let Lucas Duda go and clearly they need to get a new solution to this vital hitting position. Right?
Let us hop in the Way Back Machine and take a look at Smith’s evolution as a Met prospect before we answer that…
The Mets had the 11th overall pick (thanks to draft shenanigans) which had forced them to be unable to sign any restricted free agent (for fear of losing said pick). Scouts predicted the Mets might go with a first baseman but predicted Sandy Alderson drafting the powerful D.J. Peterson. Instead the Mets went with the Smith, whose bat held less power but projected as a plus contact tool. His bat speed was excellent and his defensive numbers looked like he’d been an asset in the field.
His 51 Game audition with the GCL and APP Mets was also promising. He displayed some extra base power, good plate control and there was plenty of reason to be optimistic about the 18 year old prospect.
The Mets moved Smith along to Savannah and, like most hitters in the Met system, he struggled. His OPS was .683 over the season wasn’t great and his power numbers were fairly pathetic. Scouts wrote this off as a sign of the ballpark, rather than a sign that Smith was shot.
The 2015 season started really badly for Smith who had a .220/.256/.244 slash line through 11 April games. Then things got slowly better. His OPS went up to .750 in May, to .869 in june and he finished the year with a slash line of .305/.354/.417 which impressed many. Some bloggers, like David Groveman, wondered if the Mets would be satisfied with a first baseman who only hit 6 home runs in the season but many fans stayed with Smith and pointed to his 33 doubles with hope and optimism.
When Smith reached AA is when most fans took notice. While he didn’t look like a second coming of Mike Piazza, his numbers reminded many of Keith Hernandez or Jon Olerud. His line for the year was an impressive .302/.367/.457 with 14 home runs and 29 doubles. His contact and plate control were both still positive tools and the scouting reports still indicated that Smith was going to be a plus defender. Now, going into 2017, the fans were actually paying attention and many wondered what the future for Duda would be with a talented prospect, like Smith, in the wings.
With the Mets playing in the hitters paradise of Las Vegas it’s easy to discount the minor league season Smith had. At 22 he managed a .905 OPS over 114 games, though he struggled (like many seem to) with the infield of Las Vegas. His splits were even more impressive, as Smith seemed to strike out more in April only to recover to his more typical numbers afterward. His power was also up, evidenced by his 16 home runs and 34 doubles in a 114 game stint. The Mets were right to trade Duda (though not for as little as they did) to give Smith a taste of the majors.
Then, he got to the majors and the wheels fell off. In the 49 games he played at the level he struck out once per game, hit for a measly .198 average and looked awful in the field. He did manage 9 home runs, which was surprising considering the scouting reports and finished with a .658 OPS.
It’s easy to say the Mets need more from first base than Smith showed in 2017 but to say that his 49 games were prophetic is a bit of a stretch. The biggest troubling factor that can be seen is how the Met brass has already turned on him. The team is already calling Smith overweight and suggesting that the Mets should trade for Jose Abreu or sign Carlos Santana. Others suggest a Terry Collins approach of signing a platoon-mate to split time with Smith and face all of the lefty starters.
To me, all of these suggestions sound like panic. The Mets have to give their prospects more of a chance than that and people can’t forget that the Mets have another internal option who’ll be knocking at the door by the end of the season as well. Between Smith and Peter Alonso, the Mets shouldn’t be looking at first base… but they are.
What are your thoughts on Smith?
Are the Mets being too hasty in moving on?
Was Smith a mistake from the start?