Quietly sitting in the top 10 among the Mets 2019 WAR ranking is Dominic Smith, who sports a 0.8 bWAR (good for seventh on the team). Smith, who has only started six games this season, is victim to the heroic performance of Pete Alonso, his first base counterpart who has earned playing time himself. However there is something to be said about a player who has hit well for the team and is getting on base at an improved rate; Smith is seeing the ball well and should be given an opportunity to start more games.
Smith should receive an automatic start against a right handed starter at least once a week, spelling Alonso in the process. In interleague matchups, both Alonso and Smith should be in the lineup. In addition, Smith can start one or two games per week in the outfield moving forward. The outfield is not unchartered territory for the former first round pick, who appeared in 90 innings last year in left field. Yes, his defensive metrics were atrocious during that timeframe, and the eye test certainly confirmed it. But is ten games worth of playing time enough to fully evaluate a player at a position? Smith has clearly come into 2019 in better shape than before, and is more agile on the base paths because of it. He has also made it publically clear that he is willing to spend time practicing an outfield position, which management did not allow until recently.
Smith deserves the playing time due to an improved walk and slugging rate over his first 58 plate appearances of the year. Much like ten games isn’t enough to evaluate defense, fifteen games worth of batting also cannot be evaluated with much certainty. Just by looking at his .432 BABIP we know that the hits will stop falling into play for him at such a high rate. However the increase in walks is a good sign of things that can come. Surely a slightly regressed version of this Dominic Smith can string together more successful at bats than whatever Aaron Altherr or Carlos Gomez are running into these days.
On the base path, Smith has safely reached based 26 times and scored in 13 of such instances. This mark suggests that Smith is moving well around the bases, which bodes well for a player who gets on at a .466 clip (his wRC+ of 169 supports this). While he has only hit one home run so far this year, many believed that his swing profile would naturally begin to lift the ball for more long balls with more playing time.
In a year where the lineup seems to have an identity crisis, Smith would be a welcome on base threat with Brandon Nimmo not around to fill that role. The defense will most certainly suffer a bit, but perhaps between the health and repetition he will develop into a replacement level defender in a corner outfield spot. The Mets could benefit from an infusion of new energy into the starting roster, as teams around the National League are calling up reinforcements such as Austin Riley and Keston Hiura who are rookies for the Braves and Brewers. Dominic Smith should be starting more games, setting the table for other Mets in the order and creating runs where possible.