Mets can hope Dominic Smith becomes Matt Adams with superior defense
By Tim Boyle
In 2019, the New York Mets can hope Dominic Smith becomes a solid part-time player who can come up with big pinch-hits. Essentially, they can wish he becomes Matt Adams with better defense.
Who is a fair player to compare Dominic Smith to? Seeing the New York Mets play the Washington Nationals early in 2019, I was reminded one of Matt Adams’ existence. He, in my opinion, is the floor of what the Mets should hope lies ahead for Smith.
Adams has had an interesting career. For a time, it looked like he would become either a platoon player or everyday first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, in 2017, the Cardinals traded him to the Atlanta Braves when they simply couldn’t get him the at-bats needed. He had a very productive year with the Braves and continued to hit well in a part-time role with the Nationals in 2018.
Now playing in his age 30 season, Adams is well beyond where Smith is in his career. Even though he’s not a superstar player, he’s the type of guy I would like to see Smith become—except with a lot better defense at first base.
Adams is a big guy and someone who probably belongs at first base or the DH spot. In 2017, in order to get his bat in the lineup, the Cardinals tried using him in left field. Every team since has tried with mostly lackluster results.
However, Adams is still primarily a first baseman just like I suspect Smith will be. Where I want to see Smith thrive is as a pinch-hitter. This is an area Adams has done particularly well in at certain times in his career. Through his first 199 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, Adams slashed .281/.322/.476 with 9 home runs. I want to see Smith do the same.
Smith’s pinch-hitting opportunities have been far fewer, but he has done well in the role thus far. It may not be the job he hoped to have with the Mets. It could, however, end up as a vital one this team needs him to succeed at in the interim.
The way I see it, Smith is going to have plenty of chances to come off the bench and help the Mets this year. That’s if he’s able to stick on the MLB roster. It’s possible when Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier return from injury he becomes the second casualty after Luis Guillorme. It’s difficult to carry two first basemen for an extended period. It wears on your bench. Beyond Guillorme, only J.D. Davis may get sent down before Smith. It will all depend on performance.
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I look at this season as Smith’s opportunity to regain favor and boost his confidence. A demotion feels too inevitable given the roster constraints. He’s the 26th man only because he has minor league options others do not. Smith needs to hit well wherever he’s at. It doesn’t feel to me that he’ll have an opportunity in New York to reach 500 at-bats. However, as potentially the best left-handed bat off the bench, he should get an opportunity to step up to the plate often. When he does, Smith must crush it.