To say Dom Smith’s debut was underwhelming would be a pretty serious understatement. To say his sophomore season has been a disappointment would be too. It’s no surprise that the organization is looking towards Peter Alonso and that even Jay Bruce has leap-frogged Smith as a probable starting first baseman for next year, especially considering Smith’s dreary showing in Triple-A this year as well.
The record books are not exactly stacked with success stories of first basemen who put up a sub-.700 OPS across their first 282 plate appearances and the smart money is not on Smith exploding into a star, or even an average regular. But recently, Smith has made a strong argument that he’s worth a shot in an otherwise lost season for the Mets.
After being demoted in July with a .183/.216/.324 slash line, there were serious doubts that Smith would be back this season at all, let alone see any meaningful playing time. Sure enough, he received only scattered opportunities upon returning in August, but he quietly produced with the limited plate appearances he received and has suddenly found himself starting nearly every game for the past two weeks. And he has taken that chance and run with it.
Since his promotion at the end of August, Smith has put up a .333/.360/.833 line with six extra-base hits across 10 games heading into Thursday’s doubleheader. He’s also demonstrating, for the first time as a major leaguer, the smooth, natural fielding capability he showed in the minors. Simply put, he looks comfortable and confident and the numbers bear it out. He’s making extremely hard contact and while his strikeout rate is up, his profile would benefit from that trade off if it brings the kind of power he’s showing right now.
That’s not to say he is a 1.193 OPS player for the long term, or even that he’s out of the woods — or anywhere close. They may be 25 impressive plate appearances, but it’s still just 25 plate appearances and Smith has a long way to go before overcoming the poor projections warranted by the brutal start to his career.
For better or worse, though, the Mets have nothing to lose by putting Smith out there every day until the end of the season, but everything to gain. He’s not blocking anyone or hurting the team’s playoff odds. Jay Bruce will have ample playing time in the outfield, both this year and next (presuming the Mets can end their mystifying love affair with Austin Jackson), and doesn’t need to prove himself with extra reps at first base. Alonso would have been a perfectly justified choice to fill that spot down the stretch, but that ship has sailed and he will (editor’s note: hopefully) have his chance next season.
Smith may not ultimately be A Guy, but right now, he’s looking an awful lot like one and the Mets have to do whatever they can to keep him in there to find out what he has. Whether his future is as trade bait or a shot at a job with the Mets next year, this kind of consistent playing time is his only chance, however slim, at regaining the value he had just one year ago.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports