New York Mets: How Dominic Smith fits with the team in 2019

ATLANTA, GA. - JUNE 13: Dominic Smith #22 of the New York Mets follows through during a fifth inning at-bat against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Field on June 13, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA. - JUNE 13: Dominic Smith #22 of the New York Mets follows through during a fifth inning at-bat against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Field on June 13, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Dominic Smith is fighting for a job with the New York Mets this season. Even if he makes the Opening Day roster, finding a role beyond the first game could be tricky.

Perhaps the biggest question entering the 2019 MLB season deals with the New York Mets first base competition. Many fans expect that young prospect Pete Alonso will be the team’s long-term solution at the position.

Alonso is currently ranked as the best first baseman in any team’s farm system. He has been one of the team’s most dangerous hitter in Spring Training (he is tied for the team lead with four home runs) and is considered a legitimate candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Struggle

However, despite the fanfare around the Mets’ top prospect, there is another potential star vying for an opportunity: Dominic Smith.

When the 2017 season began, Smith was considered to be the first baseman of the future. The 11th overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the lefty hitter had a similar profile to Alonso. He was known primarily as a power hitter who would take over for the inconsistent Lucas Duda as the primary option at first.

With each passing year, the hype surrounding Smith began to dissipate. His rookie season ended with a total of nine home runs and a lowly .198 batting average. His second season, in 2018, Smith saw a drop in at-bats. He finished the year with only 5 homers and a .224 average. While the possibility for impressive power production remained, Smith struggled to make consistent contact. His low batting numbers and on-base percentage caused serious questions about the slugger’s major league readiness.

The Development

As the 2019 approaches, Smith has shown considerable improvement during his practices and Spring Training opportunities. He currently boasts a .359 batting average with eight RBI in just 15 exhibition games. He has played so well that many fans and analysists assume that Smith will be the Mets’ Opening Day first baseman. His stellar play will allow the Mets to retain an extra year of team control on Alonso’s contact by keeping him in the minor league for the first three weeks of the season.

The real challenge for manager Mickey Callaway will come after the team calls up Alonso. As a National League team without the opportunity to play a DH, it would seem as though there is only room for one power hitting first baseman in the team’s rotation.

Will Callaway bench Smith in favor of Alonso if he is able to continue his hot streak into the regular season? Will Smith even be retained on the big-league roster? Considering the hype around Alonso, Smith seems to be playing on borrowed time.

The Future

Unless a major injury occurs during the early part of the season, Smith may be most valuable as a trade asset. If he can maintain a .300 or greater average during the first three weeks of the season, teams around MLB will certainly take notice. As the season progresses and teams establish themselves as postseason contenders, a bat like Smith’s could be an excellent chip at the trade deadline.

The Mets also have holes in their outfield and in the back of their starting rotation. Trading Smith for a player who could fill a position of need during their playoff push would be tremendous.

The Mets may also choose to keep Smith. While his defensive shortcomings make first base the most logical position for him, Smith has played 13 games as a left fielder. If New York really values his batting ability, he may have a role as a hybrid infielder/outfielder. He could also add at-bats as an occasional pinch hitter and as a DH during interleague play. During his short tenure with the team, Mets’ General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has placed a great deal of emphasis on players with position flexibility.

Smith’s future with the Mets and his prospects as an MLB player will be impacted by how he fairs with his starting role early in the season.

Next. Draft picks the Mets could have taken over Dominic Smith

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