In his waning days as Mets GM, Brodie Van Wagenen made a flurry of minor league signings to replenish some minor league depth. It was a long list of minor league deals for some recognizable names, and one of the names on that list was outfielder Mallex Smith.
The former Braves, Rays and Mariners speedster is a name fans might recognize due mostly to his exploits in Tampa Bay. After debuting with Atlanta in 2016, Smith was dealt to the Rays ahead of the 2017 season and spent the next two years there. Most will remember him for his 2018 season, where he came out of nowhere to hit .296/.367/.406 with 40 steals while playing in 141 games. Smith manned all three outfield spots, but mostly played center field due to his speed, resulting in an impressive 3.5 fWAR.
Because he was a good player on the Rays, he was traded after that year to Seattle. He manned center for them in 2019 and, to put it lightly, did not live up to his 2018. Smith was exactly replacement-level with just a 74 wRC+ in 566 PAs, which is much more in line with the type of player he was in 2016-2017, when he combined for an 86 wRC+ in 497 PAs across the two seasons.
Smith’s 2020 season did nothing to raise optimism that he could recapture whatever made him so good in 2018 either, as he hit a measly .133/.170/.178 in 47 plate appearances. Five years into his career, we have enough information to say that Smith’s 2018 is the clear outlier and he’s much more of the light-hitting, replacement level player he’s been in his four other seasons.
Smith is in camp with the Mets, but does not fit on the team’s 26-man roster as it stands right now, and doesn’t currently possess a 40-man spot. He should start the year in Syracuse and is decent depth to have, and certainly presents much better minor league outfield depth than the Mets have typically had in recent years.
Smith’s biggest asset remains his speed; his 88 stolen bases since 2018 rank third in baseball behind Trea Turner and Jonathan Villar. He could be a useful pinch-runner off the bench, but he does not present a threat at the plate, and has never graded out as a standout defender by the metrics. The 27-year-old is an interesting flyer to take in case he can BABIP his way into repeating his 2018, but nothing more at this point.