Dominic Smith and the Mets’ murky first base situation

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.

14 comments for “Dominic Smith and the Mets’ murky first base situation

  1. Mike Walczak
    August 16, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Alonso just hit his 30th home run of the season. Why not bring him up right now and see what he can do for six weeks.

    • August 16, 2018 at 11:51 am

      Because we dont need to rush more prospects who could use seasoning, not start their clock early for a waste of a season. Let him improve his defense; hear its pretty bad

  2. b
    August 16, 2018 at 10:02 am

    bruce has a 2 year contract remaining . when he is healthy

  3. Pete from NJ
    August 16, 2018 at 11:32 am

    I’m thinking Alonso will not be called up to clear an extra spot on the 40 man roster during the off season. If and when he’s ready, lets say on April 1, 2019 to join the team Alonso will be on the 25/40 man roster.

  4. August 16, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Read something about the big league coaches monkeying around with his swing for a better launch angle. Why not let him keep swinging for the line drives as he had been instead of the all or nothing crap they’ve got him doing now?

  5. Madman
    August 16, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Dollars to doughnuts Mets honchos wanted more power from first base. They talked to him about this and he responded hitting ten homers but he also got messed up as a pure hitter. Keith always says let the kids grow into their power, it will come as they become more comfortable in the big leagues and as they get stronger. And if this is something they were really adamant about why not work on it the minors? McNeils’ inability to make the DP is another example of the minor league system not preparing the players.

  6. Eraff
    August 16, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Dom Smith will figure out whether and when he’s ready to hit and play. I’m in no rush to plan perfectly for his arrival, or any player for that matter.

    His last several at bats at The Bigs were really disturbing…lot’s of pasive and lost looking bat waves. It looked like he wasn’t picking the ball up.

    There’s a lot that goes on with these guys…. The Jets coach asdmonished Pryor for disclosing the nature of his injuries and surgeries…. ya never know

  7. Chris F
    August 16, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Reality dictates change has to happen. We cant possibly have 4 big league 1B. The most likely outcome is to keep Aolonso protected and slaughtering the ball in AAA, making him an attractive trade chip this winter. I cant see any reason to expose him to major league pitching, depress his value, and leaving his situation lousy to trade. Much better he stay down.

    My bet: He never sees a day in a Mets uniform.

  8. Madman
    August 16, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Alonso will be the 1B next June. Why would they trade a prospect and what would they trade him for? A 1B! Flores needs to go, Rosario to 2B? Give Guillorme a shot at short unless his defensive skills are all hype! Get a CF that can play the position. That’s a start!

  9. Eraff
    August 17, 2018 at 6:28 am

    Alonzo at AAA is somewhat weighted toward management of the 40 man roster going forward, along with some extra time to unravel his game.

    I would anticipate Smith in the OF with Nimmo being hurt. … that dinged hand looked nasty. 2nd hand injury this year, and I’d like to see him heal before he comes back

  10. Swifty
    August 17, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Dom should not be brought up to replace Nimmo, if Nimmo needs rest. Dom, based on his AAA stats this year should not be promoted. I think Bruce comes back and goes between 1b and RF. He is ready. That puts Conforto in LF daily and gives the Mets more time to look at Jackson in CF.

  11. Swifty
    August 17, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    And Bautista will be showcased now that he looks better at the plate. I don’t see him sticking with the Mets for the rest of August. Maybe revocable waivers.

  12. Georgia Mets Fan
    August 18, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Like many here I was enthused by the Mets picking Dom Smith to fill the void at first base. The talking heads said he had a high ceiling. As Mets fans we know that high ceiling is usually a six foot six basement ceiling. Anyway, when he arrived in NY I thought man this guy looks out of shape. He reminded me of the portly Mo Vaughn. I was hoping he would have gotten his act together in the off season but it appears he still has a long way to go in his palyer development. The signing and emergence of Peter Alonso may light a fire under his derriere.

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