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Dominic Smith needs to prove he belongs in the Major Leagues

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The first baseman has an uphill battle in 2018

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Dominic Smith, a former first round draft pick for the Mets, has a lot of work to do in 2018 to combat a number of perceptions about who he is as a player. In 49 games in the big leagues last season, the Smith we saw did not match the Smith we had been told about. A gap to gap hitter without major power and a slick fielder was the report on Smith during his time in the minor leagues; last season, he was shaky at best in the field, and showed more power — and strikeout predilection — than was advertised. It was a weird year for Smith.

But Smith has always had a different perception than most minor leaguers. Built less like your average ballplayer and more like, well, a normal dude, Smith has often had to contend with being called lazy, or sluggish, or worse, by folks who couldn’t beat him in a footrace if their lives depended on it. Smith responded to those criticisms by dropping nearly 30 lbs this off-season, and seemed poised to prove himself as a viable first baseman for the Mets.

The Mets, however, didn’t appear as sold on Smith. Signing outfielder/sometimes sorta first baseman Jay Bruce to a three year contract looked a bit like the Mets hedging their bets at first. Signing Adrian Gonzalez to a major league deal shortly thereafter solidified that concept. While Smith still appears to be the Mets’ expected first baseman of the future, it is unclear if they see him as the first baseman of the present.

This spring has not been kind to Smith, either. From being benched for the first Grapefruit League game for showing up late to a lingering quad issue that has kept him from all but one game, Smith has not had the opportunity to silence any of his naysayers. At this point, the best case scenario appears to be starting the season at Triple A Las Vegas, and being ready if/when Gonzalez falters. If Gonzalez can prove himself a better player than he appeared in 2017, he still may be a useful piece of the Mets’ team this season.