Posted by Ernest Dove at 10:00 AM
So after having a joyful time (interesting choice of words I guess) at Tradition Field last week watching the Advanced A level St. Lucie Mets, I figured why not go back to the well and write another follow up type post regarding players at the level, specifically one Dominic Smith.
Also figured I was use 'the power of the pen, so to speak', to continue my friendly argument with old Mack himself about the power potential of still 19 year Dominic (ok, he turns 20 on the 15th of this month).
As we all know, after what seemed like a decade, Lucas Duda has not only secured his spot at the position, and in the middle of the Mets lineup, but has also become possibly one of the most feared hitters in the National League here in 2015. Yes, the Mets and Duda's representatives could not come to an agreement on a extension prior to the start of the season, but by all accounts it appears that both Lucas and the Mets organization itself are seeing a benefit to the holdup. Depending on what reports you read, Lucas and his reps may or may not have turned down an offer, possibly over years, not the yearly amount in and of itself. And so despite a recent week-ish long slump with the bat recently, Lucas has quickly become a combination of power and hitting for average, and might most likely get everything he is asking for during the offseason from the Mets, who would be hard pressed (and bashed heavily by Mets social media I assume) to not go ahead and offer Lucas at least a 4 year extension to remain exactly where he is, both on the field and in the lineup for the Mets. So where would that leave young Dom Smith?
Obviously, either way, Dominic Smith will not be walking through that Citi Field door anytime soon (I use the Rick Pitino line whenever I can). Smith is still baking under the sunshine of sunny south Florida, playing as one of the youngest players in the Florida State League. No matter his performance, I personally would not expect him to play anywhere else but St. Lucie for the entire 2015 season, and head to the AA level come April 2016. But I'm still a little curious about his projections at this time regarding his ongoing advancement and placement within the organization.
Dominic was drafted with the 11th overall pick in 2013 out of high school, listed at 6 ft 185 LBS (he's not 185 pounds anymore, but I'll get to that later). Early scouts had Smith pegged as a sweet swinging, above average glove, with lot's of offensive potential, and a frame to put on some pounds and show power into his professional career. Well, after 218 games played as a professional, scanning 3 minor league levels/affiliations, young Dom finds himself with 5....... yes, 5 total career homeruns. So, is this who Dominic Smith is? Is he a sweet swinging above average fielding player with......gulp....gap power..........and not the homerun power that so many teams crave out of the corner infield position?
During my visit to St. Lucie last week, I honestly don't feel as thought I was watching a kid with 'gap power'. I don't see his swing being one in which direct solid contact is made with ball into the gaps and that's it. I saw a young man pummel a ball, opposite field, hitting the wall for one of his doubles. And it was left center, it was all left field, on the field, and not a long pop up that drifted in any kind of wind. Add this to the fact that Dominic Smith will continue to play out the next week or so as a teenager within this organization. One who has seemingly almost broken Mets protocol the past two seasons with his aggressive placement in the A ball levels up to this point in his young professional career.
And, as he did during his first taste of full season ball, Smith came out in April 2015 hitting sub .200 and struggling, before coming on quickly in month number two of the season. And then there's the doubles........lot's of them........After hitting 26 doubles in 126 games played last season in low A level Savannah, Dominic Smith currently has 18 doubles, in just 41 games played. Now, again, I'm talking about a kid I've only seen LIVE once, and so I don't know what most of these doubles have looked like. Were they hard shots in between the outfielders on the ground? Were they moon shots off the walls, or were they full of ripped shots down the baseline? That's for others to correct me on and point out.
Perhaps what I would be more worried about him at this time is his low walk rate. In 2014, he walked 51 times. This year, he only has 9 walks, as opposed to 34 strikeouts. His recent hot streak has him hitting pretty much where his young career average in batting puts him at, which is over .270 BA. He's been consistently hitting in the 5 hole this season, but that was also taking into account Michael Conforto being on the team, and 24 year old Maikis De La Cruz in cleanup for the St. Lucie Mets. Time will now tell where the organization chooses to bat him for the remainder of his time there.
For me, what's most important to note is the aggressiveness of his promotions since being drafted. Obviously the talent is there. Obviously there was confusion as to the future of the position at the major league level at the time so for all we know that could have caused the moves of pushing Dominic into full season ball perhaps a year earlier then expected. But now Lucas Duda is becoming a star, and young Dom is still putting up doubles instead of homers. So what's the plan? Is Dominic Smith still the future of the Mets? In my humble opinion, he is already at 19 years old a MUCH better and smooth glove over at 1B than Lucas. He's also a lefty, which some might prefer in their first baseman for gathering of short hops and stretching for outs.
Either way, perhaps can simply let the kid play out each level, per season, the entire season, without promotions, offer Lucas the 4 year extension he might be seeking, and simply see what transpires during the 2017-18 seasons.
I still for one see Dominic Smith looking the part of a power hitting first baseman, with possible Gold Glove type fielding to boot. Although, it will be interesting how Dom continues to grow, not only as a player, but physically. He is definitely no longer the tall lean kid out of high school putting on his new Mets baseball cap during the night of the draft in 2013. But at the same time he is also in no way looking at this time like a Prince Fielder clone either (although he sure is torching the AL right now anyway, so who care).
Perhaps we've got years to wait regardless, but we're all Mets fans here, and this Macks Mets site is heavy on the minors, so the prospects are always interesting to us. I'm just a little more interested because of the minor soap opera dilemma of worrying about his power, while also watching Duda soar, and honestly looking throughout the organization and literally seeing nobody else as alternative option at the position right now.
What say you Mack's Mets? Is Duda now a star? Is Dominic Smith the next James Loney? Is he a budding star simply waiting to get more experience and catch up to the aggressive promotions before hitting bombs more consistently? Or is he merely now trade bait if and when the Mets lock up Duda to multi-year contract?