It seemed like a great pick at the time. June, 2013 and it was Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson’s third draft, his third chance to get a first round pick right. Previously, he had drafted Brandon Nimmo – a relatively obscure kid from Wyoming, whose high school didn’t even have a baseball team – and Gavin Cecchini, a shortstop who they hoped would be able to hit, eventually. Neither of these choices inspired confidence among the draft experts or that portion of the fan base that pays attention to such things. To that point – June, 2013 – people were questioning the front office’s eye for talent. In 2013, they chose a big California high school first baseman, Dominic Smith, with the eleventh overall pick. A lot of people thought Alderson and Co. got this one right. Smith had what the experts would call “a high ceiling.” He showed some of that on the heels of his being drafted: a .301 average and an .837 OPS as an 18-year-old is something to pay attention to. He regressed a bit in his first full-season league, but rebounded nicely upon his promotion to advanced-A ball. He tore the cover off the ball in the Arizona Fall League that year. Moving up to AA Binghamton in 2016, he hit .302 with 14 homers and an .824 OPS… in a pitchers’ league. He also got high marks for his defense all along the way, too. It looked like that high ceiling might be pretty high. Something happened when he moved up to AAA Las Vegas, though. In a dry atmosphere where the ball travels well and offensive stats are greatly inflated, Smith could only manage 16 home runs in 457 at bats. Yes, his OPS was .905, but that was only good enough for 28th place in the Pacific Coast League.
Upon being called up to the big club in August 2017, he looked like he enjoyed those famous Las Vegas buffets a bit too much. He looked large, slow and almost disinterested. At least one fan I know wondered out loud why he looked so sullen. His stats mirrored that observation: .198/.262/.395/.658 in a 183 PA sample. But as the team’s top prospect at the position and with seemingly nothing more to prove out west, he was penciled in as the starting first baseman for the 2018 New York Mets. That experiment didn’t make to the first exhibition game. Smith had shown up to spring training leaner than he’d been in a year and more focused, it had been reported. Yeah… His focus was so sharp, he was late for that first exhibition game and manager Mickey Callaway took him out of the lineup. It hasn’t gotten any better since. He’s shown nothing in 71 at bats at the major league level this year and is currently sporting a flaccid .262 BA and a .739 OPS in the thin air of Vegas. At only age 23, it appears his “ceiling” is now the basement.
In his stead this year, Wilmer Flores has become the de facto starter. But the Mets also have Jay Bruce coming off the disabled list soon and he will get many reps at first base as he heals. They have Jose Bautista flipping among right field, third base and first base. They have Peter Alonso down in Vegas, taking Smith’s position and at bats. Yoenis Cespedes has said he would be willing to play first base whenever he extricates himself from his latest injury black hole. It’s a position that’s ill-defined for the Mets, one they will have to straighten out over the winter. It would appear that Dominic Smith is not in the mix to be the answer after all.
Oh, and as for that 2013 draft? Smith was taken at number 11. The Yankees chose Aaron Judge at number 32. Just sayin’…
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.