In the five weeks since his Mets debut, Dominic Smith hasn't put up dominant numbers in any category, leading some to express concerns that he wasn't ready for the majors. But he is already beginning to adjust, and his .879 OPS in September shows the potential he brings.
Possibly as a function of his relative youth at each level, Smith has a history of adjusting slowly to his promotions. As a 20-year-old in High-A, he mustered just a .220 average with one extra base hit in the month of April. From May onwards, he hit .314 and finished the year with 33 doubles.
Likewise, the following year in Double-A, he put up mediocre numbers well into May, before catching fire and batting .323/.397/.495 from June through September. His start in Triple-A (an .867 OPS in April of this year) was comparatively strong, but he still showed improvement throughout the season, finishing with a career-high .905 OPS, as well as the best power numbers he has shown in professional ball.
In his first three weeks in the majors, Smith offered little to get excited over -- more strikeouts than hits resulted in an awful .164 batting average and.511 OPS. He struggled to elevate the ball, which resulted in an inflated number of double plays and suppressed any semblance of power.
In an admittedly small sample, Smith has looked like an entirely different player in the month of September. He has six extra base hits, including three home runs, raising his slugging percentage almost 100 points. His strikeout rate has increased, but it's gone hand-in-hand with a better walk rate as well as harder contact. He's backing away somewhat from his all-fields approach, but if it results in more doubles and home runs, it's a net positive for his offensive production.
Smith is not out of the woods yet, with a season line still well below league average, but the strides he's made this month are huge. And many of his underlying numbers suggest he has been unlucky so far, particularly his .227 batting average on balls in play. Between some improvement on balls in play and continued adjustment to big league pitching, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic about Smith's trajectory going forward.
Perhaps the only bright side for a team losing as the Mets are is the ability to devote time and at-bats to a player like Smith. He has shown a great, coachable attitude and is still young enough to add strength. Kevin Long is an ideal hitting coach for the power-lite lefty and there are a lot of ways this season can be a successful one for him even if the final stat line is disappointing.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring