If the New York Mets and manager Luis Rojas plan to develop left fielder Dominic Smith into one of the premier talents in the game, they are going to have to keep him in the starting lineup against left-handed pitching and his occasional suspect defense, whether the analytics agree with it or not. The only way the 25-year old former top prospect is going to become the player that many of us think he’s capable of becoming is by receiving as many valuable reps in both the outfield as well as in the batter’s box.
The Mets similarly made the mistake in the past with sparingly playing Michael Conforto against left-handed pitching which seemed to exacerbate the problem more so than providing a solution and letting Conforto work through his weaknesses at the time. While Smith’s career .237/.331/.415 career slash line against southpaws isn’t the most encouraging, he’s done that in close to only 160 plate appearances. Furthermore, it’s important to take note that last season Smith had put up a line of .283/.391/.509 line in 64 plate appearances against lefties which showed his ability to adapt.
Smith also produced a very solid 146 wRC+ and a .900 OPS last season against left-handed pitching, which was best on the team, and further solidifies the argument on why Smith should be in the everyday lineup. Plain and simple, the more plate appearances that Smith receives against left-handed pitching this season, the better off both the Mets and Smith will be down the line.
The New York Mets would greatly benefit in the long run from giving Dominic Smith valuable time in the outfield and against left-handed pitchers.
Sure, defensively Smith’s not the top option you want to run out into left field, as Smith is a natural first baseman by trade, and the Mets outfield defense is a bit compromised with Brandon Nimmo in center field currently. However, this is the hand the Mets have been dealt this season and the only way for Dom to improve defensively is by giving him the playing time he needs to harness his skills in the outfield and become a better defender.
Should the Designated Hitter be implemented in 2022 (as expected), then Smith more than likely will move back to his natural position at first base and split time with Pete Alonso at the Designated Hitter position. But if the Mets have serious postseason aspirations in 2021, they need to roll with their best eight players overall and Dom Smith is more than deserving of that recognition regardless of who is on the mound or how his defense may play this season.
I understand everything I’m proposing is easier said than done, especially in the very analytical era of baseball that we have entered. However, should the Mets make it to October they won’t be able to afford to hide Dom Smith’s bat against left-handed pitching or his defense in left field from the opposition should they plan to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy.
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The time for Dom Smith to be in left field and in the starting lineup against southpaws is now.