I remember highly anticipating draft night in June 2013. The Mets had the 10th overall pick in the draft, and I was watching it announced live on MLB Network, that the Mets draft room had decided to tab Dominic Smith with their pick.
Drafted out of high school in California with a smooth, classic lefty firstbaseman swing, Smith was regarded as one of, if not the best pure hitter in his draft class. But his road to the bigs has been anything but smooth. But then again, Dominic knows a thing or two about life’s challenges.
One of seven siblings, Dominic grew up in Los Angeles county. He has been open in the media about not having much early on, and spent time with the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program in his youth. But upon signing a $2.6 million bonus to join the Mets ranks as a professional baseball player, Smith began to face two major criticisms: his weight, and his apparent lack of power.
Smith hit for average at every stop in his minor league career, and drew consistent positive reviews from scouts for taking quality at bats and using an all-fields approach that Smith says Mets instructors encouraged him to do. If the launch angle revolution has permeated down to the minors, it hadn’t yet while Dominic was facing his scout critics. While some analysts noted the possibility that Smith has a large enough frame, and would eventually learn how to lift the baseball, others viewed his in-game power projection with much skepticism. That skepticism held up through his call-up last August. While Smith quieted some of those critics by shooting out 9 home runs in only 167 at-bats, the other major criticism lingers to this day.
Smith has never been a lean kid. He has battled his weight his entire time as a professional ball player. While he showed up to Major League camp last spring having spent the winter working out and showing up trimmer than ever, he eventually put the weight back on throughout his highly successful first tour through the Pacific Coast League. Dominic has talked about the difficulty in staying away from unhealthy, fattening foods when riding buses throughout the minor league system.
So here we are. His general manager, Sandy Alderson, publicly called Smith out in the media in November for not being in optimal baseball condition. Smith has been candid and up-front about his desire to make amends. In a great article for the New York Post, Ken Davidoff detailed his visit to spend a day working out with Smith at the Fischer Institute in phoenix, AZ, where Dominic has been training since January. According to the article, Smith has dropped significant weight again this winter. Dominic speaks about his hunger to keep the weight off this go-round. He speaks of having found a new agility in his more slender frame that should help him show Mets fans the rave reviews his defense around the first base bag drew throughout his career.
When baseball people threw water on Smith’s potential, Smith never wavered. When scouts soured on his lack of power, he confidently maintained his all-fields approach. When the media and public criticism went after his weight, Smith owned responsibility and took action. The impressive 22 year old has everything you want in a homegrown ball player. Talent, humility, drive, accessability. I’ve never been one to do it, but I wouldn’t bet against this kid reaching his full potential as the Mets first baseman of the future.