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Dominic Smith continues to establish himself as a very good major league hitter

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Smith is following up his breakthrough 2019 season with even better performance at the plate.

New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Drafted by the Mets in the first round back in 2013, Dominic Smith made his professional baseball debut later that year as an 18-year-old. As he climbed the Mets’ minor league ladder, he wasn’t often considered a top prospect, ranking in the top 100 on all three of the big top prospect lists—Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com—just once, ahead of the 2016 season.

Baseball America and MLB.com kept Smith in their top 100 going into the 2017 season, and Smith officially graduated from being considered a prospect with 183 plate appearances at the major league level that year. That debut season turned out to be pretty underwhelming for Smith at the plate, as he hit .198/.262/.395 with a 74 wRC+. The upside was that he hit nine home runs in a pretty short span of time, and one of the knocks on him during his minor league career was that he was a first baseman who didn’t hit for all that much power.

Smith spent the majority of his 2018 season in Triple-A, but the time he spent with the Mets looked fairly similar to what he had done the year before. His line was a bit better overall at .224/.255/.420 with an 83 wRC+ and five home runs in 149 plate appearances, but it was hardly jumping off the page.

But last year, Smith caught everyone’s attention as a major league hitter. He cut down on a strikeout rate that had been significantly higher in the big leagues. His walk rate settled in at almost 10 percent. And he hit for average, got on base, and hit for power with a .282/.355/.525 line, 11 home runs, and a 133 wRC+ in 197 plate appearances. While it might have taken longer than the Mets had hoped for Smith to develop into a good major league hitter, that was still just his age-24 season.

Through 69 plate appearances this year, Smith is more than backing up what he did in that breakthrough season last year. He’s hit .310/.391/.741 with 6 home runs and a 195 wRC+. Like Robinson Canó, he’s right up there among the best hitters in baseball so far this year with that wRC+ that ranks seventh in all of baseball among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances.

Given the construction of the Mets’ roster, the presence of Pete Alonso as the team’s regular first baseman, and the shortness of the 2020 season, Smith won’t have the opportunity to establish himself over a normal full season’s worth of plate appearances until at least next year. But between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, he’s approaching half of a full season’s workload. And he’s hit .289/.365/.579 with 17 home runs and a 149 wRC+ over that span.

By wRC+, Smith has been the Mets’ best hitter since the start of the 2019 season. That’s no small feat in a lineup that has included Alonso, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo, all of whom have hit well above league average over the same span. And with the emergence of Luis Guillorme and resurgence of Canó this year, Smith still might end up finishing the year atop the list.

It’s probably too soon, statistically, to say that this is who Smith is as a major league hitter. But watching him play has been a lot of fun, and his performance at the plate hasn’t raised any red flags. Considering where he was just two years ago, it’s pretty great that we can legitimately contemplate whether or not he might be the very best hitter the Mets have.