Catching Up With #1: Dominic Smith

For the third straight year Mets general manager Sandy Alderson used his 1st round draft pick to select a high school player, when, with the 11th overall selection of the 2013 June amateur draft he picked lefty-hitting first baseman Dominic Smith, 18, out of Junipero Serra H.S., California.

Leading up to the draft, Dominic spent his final amateur campaign batting .493 with 7 home runs while helping lead his school to a Southern Section Division-III title.

Jun 12, 2013; Gardena, CA, USA; Gardena Serra first baseman Dominic Smith poses at portrait session at Serra High. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

During his high school career he proved proficient in the outfield, and even on the mound (armed with a low-90s fastball and slider).  Clearly, however, Dominic Smith’s appeal came as a slugging first baseman.  While considered an above-average fielder with soft hands and a strong arm, Smith won over scouts with his (resoundingly described) sweet swing at the plate. 

Mets scouting director Tommy Tanous said, “It’s as smooth a swing as you’re going to see.”

Many industry analysts agreed Smith would be chosen within the first 15 selections, and a few projections even placed him within the top 10.  In their May 2013 pre-draft list Baseball America listed Dominic 14th.

After the Mets made him their top choice, Dominic Smith and the club agreed on a $2.6 million dollar signing bonus on June 19th – just 4 days after his 18th birthday.

  • Smith was promptly assigned to the (R)-Gulf Coast League where he made his pro debut on June 22nd and went 2 for 4 at the plate with 2 singles and an RBI.  In 48 games and 167 at-bats for the GCL Mets, he slashed .287/.384/.407/.791, with 9 doubles, 3 home runs, 22 RBI, and drew 24 walks.  Defensively, he committed just 6 errors in 374 chances for a .984 FA.
  • On Aug. 28th he began a 3 game stint in the (R)-Appalachian League with the Kingsport Mets.  In 6 official at-bats he stroked 4 doubles, scored 2 runs, recorded 4 RBI, and drew 2 walks.

By season’s end, Baseball America named Dominic Smith the GCL’s 4th top rated prospect.  BA later ranked him #92 on their top 100 prospects list, and #4 on their Mets organizational list.  BA also ranked Smith #4 on their first baseman list, but MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo took it step further and named Smith the minor league’s #2 first baseman.

Dominic was promoted to the (A)-Savannah Sand Gnats for the 2014 season, where he faced the challenge of his first full season and hitting in historic, yet unforgiving Grayson Stadium.

  • In 126 games and 461 at-bats he slashed .271/.344/.338/.683, with 51 walks, 52 runs scored, 26 doubles, 1 home run, and 44 RBI.  He fanned 77 times reducing his K% from 18.7 in 2013, to a much improved 14.9 mark.  Defensively, in 110 games at first base he committed just 7 errors in 1,013 chances.

In August, Baseball America rated Smith as the best defensive first baseman of the South Atlantic League for 2014.

Smith went unrated in Mayo’s 2014 pre-season top 100 prospects list, but by season’s end he was listed at #81.  He ascended to the top of Jonathan Mayo’s list of first basemen as well.

Thoughts:

There’s an established demand for power that comes with playing first base.  The idea here was not to develop the next Hal Morris, Doug Mientkiewicz, or Dave Magadan.  Unlike Sandy Alderson’s drafting of Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini, Dominic Smith’s selection came with more weighted slugging expectations.

But, one must keep in mind that Dominic Smith is still a teenager, and won’t turn 20-years old until June.  Nevertheless, potential is one matter, while results are another.  His baseball card says he has yet to display the power anticipated of him prior to the draft.

In 634 professional at-bats Dominic has hit 39 doubles, a mere 4 home runs, and owns a soft .366 slugging average.

Is it too early to judge?

Absolutely.

For the moment, not too many seem overly preoccupied with Dominic’s initial lack of slugging.  In fact, most have maintained confidence he can develop into a .300 hitter, and that as he matures and learns his craft at the professional level his slugging will surely improve.

Dominic understands the strike zone.  He’ll draw walks, and so far owns an overall .360 OBA.  And as noted previously, his K% dropped appreciably from 18.7 in rookie ball, to 14.9 in his first full season at Savannah.

His 2014 home/road splits were somewhat concerning though.  In 62 games and 218 at-bats at home, he slashed .284/.354/.349/.703, with 13 extra base hits (no HR), and 23 RBI.  In his defense, the outfield gaps at Savannah’s Grayson Stadium jut out to create very unfriendly dimensions for power hitters.  To his credit, Smith seemingly avoided an overly inviting right field fence (310′), and instead displayed proficiency hitting to all fields.

However, in 64 games and 243 at-bats on the road Dominic posted a decreased slash of .259/.336/.327/.665, with 15 extra base hits (1 HR), and 21 RBI.

A season at (A+)-Port St. Lucie awaits where many curious eyes will be fixed on Dominic Smith.

Previously:
Catching Up With #1: Gavin Cecchini
Catching Up With #1: Brandon Nimmo

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