In an effort to start at first base for the Mets in 2018, Mets 1B prospect Dominic Smith plans to work this offseason on his swing and focus on improving his diet and a new wellness regimen.
"I'm not taking anything for granted," Smith said Monday night in studio on SNY's Mets Hot Stove. "I know I didn't perform how I'd like and I'm definitely going to work my butt off."
In early November, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Smith did not do enough in August and September to win the team's starting first base job.
"Dominic's going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years if not throughout his career," Alderson added, according to Marc Carig of Newsday.
Smith told SNY it was difficult for him to manage his weight in the minor leagues because the games ended late and players often resort to eating fast food.
New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (22) at Citi Field. Credit: USA Today
However, he added, "In the big leagues, you can have anything you want and I'm going to make sure I make the right strides of eating the right foods. I'm going to make sure I make the right strides of being in the weight room every day and just looking forward to taking care of my body because at the end of the day, that's all you have."
Smith, who was drafted in the first round during 2013, was ranked Baseball America's No. 71 prospect and MLB.com's No. 63 prospect entering last season. He hit .330 with 16 home runs and 76 RBI in 114 games at Triple-A, marking the first time in his career that he played more than 130 games.
He told SNY that expects to enter Spring Training and next year better prepared for the physical grind of a full season based on what he learned about himself last season.
"The day after the season, I couldn't get out of bed, I was so sore and tired," Smith added. "It was a long haul -- it was my first time going through it, but now I know how to prepare for that, what to expect, how to pace myself."
Smith, 22, hit .364 with three home runs during a 10-game stretch during the middle of September. However, overall, he hit .198 with a .262 OBP, .395 slugging, nine home runs and 26 RBI in 49 games.
"I feel like once I shrink my strike zone, once I stop chasing those pitches and force them to come to me and take my walks, hitting gets a lot easier after that," he added.
By no means do I believe the Mets have lost faith in Smith, I just think they're being cautious and realistic based on his age, habits and how he performed for them last season.
This is most evident based on Alderson's comments about Smith and his intention to inquire about adding someone else to his roster that can play first base.
According to multiple reports, Alderson is in the market for either an every day first baseman, such as Carlos Santana, or a corner outfielder that can play first base, such as Jay Bruce, Adam Lind and Logan Morrison.
In late October, I said Smith and teammate Amed Rosario were only penciled in as the team's starting shortstop and first baseman next season. Their names are not in ink. Because, while the Mets will deny it in public, I was -- and still am -- convinced that Alderson is 100 percent willing to discuss both players in trade, especially Smith.
Sep 10, 2017; Smith is congratulated by shortstop Rosario after hitting a HR. Credit: Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Again, this is not a direct judgment on either player, I just think Alderson is being realistic about what he has to be willing to do to improve his roster. And, if the Mets can sign a guy like Santana, who would occupy first base the next three to five years, it only makes sense to consider dealing Smith to help significantly upgrade another position, such as center field, second base, or third base.
Personally, I'd rather see the Mets sign Morrison and keep Smith.
I like Dom. For starters, he's a nice kid, funny, and I think -- as he grows more confident as a big-league player -- fans will adore his personality. Together, he, Michael Conforto and Rosario have the potential to be the next generation of position players that we are proud to see in All Star games, win postseason games, and make history.
For now, though, based on what I saw last year, I think Dom could use a bit more time in Triple-A, especially if the Mets can move this summer to Syracuse. He currently projects as a light-hitting, above-average fielding first baseman. He can play for the Mets right now, no question, but I think he'd continue to struggle with finding his groove, which would not be helped by being in New York, under a microscope and with pressure to perform for a pennant-contending team. Alderson was smart to give him a look last August and September at the end of a dead summer. But, to do it again at the start of a fresh season might prove to be foolish.
The way I see it, best case scenario for Dom's first full year as a starting first baseman should be 15 home runs, 20 or so doubles, a .250 average and a .300 OBP. However, Alderson could probably get similar production for $7 million for a year of Lind, who is a veteran and can also play corner outfield, all while Smith continues to get work in Triple-A.
In either case, when he's set and getting consistent playing time, I see Smith's first six seasons being similar to Derrek Lee, who -- once he got going -- was good for roughly 20-25 home runs, lots of doubles, a .280 average, a .360 OBP, and 2-3 WAR a season, according to FanGraphs. The thing is, are the Mets ready to deal with his bumps and bruises before getting to that point, especially if they're dealing with a similar learning curve at shortstop with Rosario? Maybe, but it seems Alderson is not...