Limited patience for Dominic Smith to figure it out

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves
New York Mets v Atlanta Braves / Adam Hagy/GettyImages

Who is the real Dominic Smith? Is he the .244/.304/.363 hitter he was last season? Or is Smith the .316/.377/.616 hitter he was one year prior in his 50 games in 2020? The sometimes first baseman, sometimes left fielder of the New York Mets has given us all kinds of performances since his 2017 debut.

Through 1221 plate appearances in parts of five seasons, Smith has batted .252/.312/.441 with an average of 19 home runs and 67 RBI per 162 games. It’s not impressive in the least. From a first baseman, it’s downright terrible.

Just as everyone was ready to give up on Smith back in 2019, he became a key part of the club as a left fielder. That was until an injury practically ended his season. He would only get one more at-bat. Smith followed that up with awesome year in 2020 where he finished 13th in the MVP vote: all of this after batting .198/.262/.395 and .224/.255/.420 in his first two seasons.

So which is it? Who is the real Dominic Smith?

The Mets can’t have much more patience with Dominic Smith

Although a likely trade candidate, the market for first basemen isn’t going to reward with the Mets with anything spectacular. Smith has shown he is capable of playing left field but he’s truly a better fit at first base.

Many are hoping with the addition of the DH to the National League could give the Mets an opportunity to upgrade their defense at first base and push Pete Alonso to a more permanent role as their designated hitter. It’s not a perfect plan. Unless Smith can hit regularly, the Mets are going to have one of the weakest first basemen in the game.

If last year was any hint at what’s coming next, the Mets don’t seem to be fans of putting Smith in left field ever again. He hardly played in the latter days of the season. Playing time in left field went to Jeff McNeil—another guy in the doghouse right now with no certainty of opening the season with the team.

With Smith, it’s much more different. McNeil’s positional flexibility is much more valuable. In three of his four big seasons, he has been an excellent hitter. Smith is only two for five and his lone full season was a weaker performance.

Smith and McNeil—along with J.D. Davis—are the three position players previously penciled in to play regularly that we should expect to see heavily shopped once baseball action resumes again. All three probably won’t get dealt. At least one should find his way onto the Opening Day roster, possibly two.

As a first baseman who spent far more time playing left field in recent seasons, Smith doesn’t have as many ways to make a team’s everyday lineup. First basemen are easy to find. Unless Smith’s bat can get back to where it was in 2019-2020 and stay there, he’s going to get very familiar with the bench in some city.

If Smith is one of the offseason survivors and makes the team’s Opening Day roster with the DH in place, the pressure on him will build up quickly. I don’t suspect he’d be in line to play 6 or 7 days a week. He’ll probably split some time with other players. In those fewer opportunities, he’s going to have to stand out. Otherwise, Smith goes to the bench. The Mets rinse and repeat. Once again, he becomes a trade candidate.

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