5. Dominic Smith, 1B
Height: 6', Weight: 250 lbs.
DOB: 6/15/1995 (21)
Acquired: 1st round, 2013 Draft (Junipero Serra High School, California)
2016: Binghamton (Double-A): 130 G, 542 PA, .302/.367/.457, 14 HR, 2/3 SB, 13.7 strikeout rate, 9.2 walk rate
The key to Dominic Smith’s baseball maturation has always been his power. With a good eye at the plate and a sweet left-handed swing, Smith’s ability to hit was never in question. But he would have to hit and get on base at an elite rate in order to thrive as a first baseman without much power. Smith silenced many of his critics in 2016, clubbing a team-high and personal-best 14 home runs, all while maintaining a high batting average and excellent peripherals.
Ever the polarizing prospect, analyzing Smith’s season in detail still raises some concerns about that power. His surge in power came in a year when Eastern League pitching was down, and in Smith’s case specifically, outside of a few weeks in late June and July against certain teams, he still lacked the home run totals that are so important to first basemen. With his affinity for taking balls to the opposite field, he regularly cue balled, rolled over, or outright swing through pitches that he might have otherwise been able to hit with more authority to his pull side. While he was able to hit against lefties, he showed very little power against them, slugging .330 with one homer in 115 plate appearances against them. At first base, Smith is a strong defender, rangier than he looks, with soft hands and a strong, accurate arm, though his footwork around the bag is sometimes plodding due to his heaviness.
I am not excited about Dom Smith. I think that’s the best way to sum up my feelings on him. There are certainly things to like: he can hit to all fields, he has the patience to wait for his pitch, and he’s good around the bag at first. There’s plenty of downside risk here, though. I’m concerned about how he’ll handle more premium velocity. I’m concerned his approach is too geared toward the opposite field to tap into any real power. And I’m concerned about his body. He’s going to play in the majors, but I’m just not convinced he will be an above-average regular.
Smith’s power finally showed up a bit in Double-A, but a .155 ISO doesn’t cut it from a first baseman these days. That’s Eric Hosmer level power, and Hosmer is one of the worst offensive first baseman in baseball. The hit tool definitely works and I’ll even stay optimistic on the defensive skillset (despite a hefty physique), but until Smith posts an ISO over .200, I remain unenthusiastic.
If Dominic Smith played anywhere else on the baseball diamond, he might be the Mets’ top prospect. He has a nice swing and should hit for a decent average wherever he goes. We know there’s some power in there. He has a good arm and is at least an adequate defender at his position. Smith is, unfortunately, a first base prospect. I’m sure, in Triple-A Las Vegas, he will crush a bunch of home runs, making his profile look less risky on paper, but I feel Smith needs to change a lot in his approach in order to actually realize his potential.