Like Alonso is now, Dominic Smith was once the Mets top prospect at first base. Smith made a name for himself as a high average hitter in the minors and was called up to the majors for the first time back in late 2017.
Since his debut in the majors, things haven’t gone as well as we had hoped for Smith. Despite hitting .330 with a .386 OBP in AAA Las Vegas in 2017, he batted below the Mendoza Line after his call-up, batting a measly .198 in 56 games for the Mets, although he did show more power than initially expected, with 9 home runs over his initial run.
Still, many fans still held out hope for Smith in 2018, believing that this may have simply been a case of calling a player up too soon and that he would turn a corner with an impressive Spring Training. Once again, Smith failed to live up to expectations.
For insurance in case he floundered, the Mets signed the veteran Adrian Gonzalez to a 1-year deal to compete for the starting job. After Smith was late to a team meeting early in the spring, missed some time with an injury and just generally was outperformed by A-Gon, he was optioned to AAA to start the season.
Smith’s average in AAA dropped significantly last season compared to the .330 he hit the year prior. At the same time, the Mets were dealing with several injuries and many of their healthy players in the majors were underperforming. Looking to jumpstart the lineup, on June 10 they opted to release Gonzalez, who was batting .241 and brought Smith back up to the big leagues.
While Smith was handed the starting job at First Base on a silver platter, he did not provide the boost in the lineup the Mets had hoped for. From June 12 – July 15, Smith appeared in 26 games for the Mets where he only hit .183 with only 1 home run, which accounted for his only RBI, after which he was sent back to AAA and was replaced by Wilmer Flores at the position.
He returned to the majors once again in late August and started the majority of the games at first throughout September, where he showed a marked improvement in his average, hitting .258 for the final month of the year.
While he has underperformed during his initial stints in the majors, Smith is only 23 years old and the Mets still have control of him for several years to come. While Alonso is considered by most to be the first baseman of the future, unless he is traded, Smith will still be on the roster next year, and as I said before, Alonso will likely start the year in AAA.
Smith will most likely be brought into Spring Training to compete for a spot next year and if he performs well, he could very well break camp with the team, potentially with the job on opening day.
While he hasn’t performed as expected in the majors, just one year ago he was ranked as the Mets’ number two prospect and looked to be the starting first baseman going forward. He clearly has some talent to deserve that ranking, and with the real prospect of Alonso replacing his role on the team, it could finally be the motivation he needs to improve his game.
With his promising stint in September last season, hitting .258 for the month, if he capitalizes on what could be his last opportunity to start with the Mets, then he may just force them to rethink their plans.