Back in 2013 the Mets selected Dominic Smith with their 11th overall pick. A pick that meant the Mets could not sign a Top-tier Free Agent. A pick that meant the Mets were spared the dive bomb decline of Michael Bourn, who had been coming off the best year of his career. The same draft where the Cubs got Kris Bryant, the Phillies nabbed J.P. Crawford and the Yankees lucked out into Aaron Judge.
Few people questioned their pick. The Mets looked for the player they saw as having the most advanced hitting tools in the entire draft class. Despite his lack of size (for the position) and the fact his power metrics were in question. Baseball pundits liked Smith. Consider this piece of scouting from MLB.com:
The bat is what really stands out for this Southern California high school first baseman. With a terrific approach at the plate and a loose swing, he gets advanced marks for his hittability. Right now, Smith is more of a hit machine, an RBI type, than one who will wow you with his power. There is some pop there, and how high he goes on Draft day may depend on just how much power a team thinks he’ll have in the future. He’s a very solid defender at first, though it’s the fact that some see him as the best pure high school hitter in the class that will get him drafted in the early stages of the Draft.
This same player came to the Mets and earned his way onto the Savannah (SAL) team at the age of 19, the same player who went to the Arizona Fall League in 2015 and put on an absolute show and who, in 2016, seemed on the verge of greatness as his power finally emerged in AA.
Two more years and two partial seasons in the majors later and Met fans have moved on. There is a new name on their lips when they think of First Base and most people wonder when the Mets will package Smith off as a bargain bin add-on in yet another fire sale deal. How many people have penciled in Smith as the starting First Baseman in 2019? Surely that number is a great deal lower than those who nod to Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Peter Alonso.
Why have we given up on a player who is not yet 24 years old? There are three answers:
1. His prospect status has been eclipsed
2. He failed to do and say the right things
3. He played in New York
Papa Can You Hear Me?
If you look at Smith through the lens of Alonso you can hardly see Smith at all. What is it that Smith does better? Smith, who is half a year younger than his competition, has (if only in the past) hit for a higher average. Alonso boasts a far higher slugging percentage and on base percentage and it isn’t just homers. The only thing that Smith hopes to hang his hat on is defense and his gaffes in 2017 and 2018 make that metric almost laughable.
Razzle Dazzle ‘Em
A prospect, especially a First Rounder, has to have a little swagger. They have to exude the confidence that makes fans feel they are sure to do great things for their franchise in the future. Smith, sadly, hasn’t managed that well. He’s shown up overweight and out of shape, he’s talked about his All Star future and he’s had to face team discipline for being late to a meeting. It might already be too late for Smith to turn the media story around and become the kid who is gonna work as hard as he can to succeed. It’s too late for a lot of things.
It’s a Hell of a Town
We in the Tri-State area do not refer to New York as “New York City”. New York is simply “The City”. We are downright snotty about it and make much of the country dislike us because of it. To us, New York is obviously the center of the Universe, “The Greatest City on Earth” and we do not accept even the appearance of failure. Players in St. Louis, Cleveland, San Diego and Houston are allowed to struggle. They are allowed to make their mistakes and move on. New Yorkers, and those living close enough to think of themselves similarly, have long and often very unforgiving memories. Do we remember Carlos Beltran’s six and a half years of being the star of the franchise, or do we remember that one playoff at bat?
In the end, I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many Smith jerseys around Citi Field in the future and it becomes more and more likely that the Mets send him on his way as soon as they find a taker. I was a Smith fan, once upon a time, but that time is over and I’m sad it’s come to this.
I’m not sorry about the Musical Theatre references.