It’s been no secret Dominic Smith has not been the player the Mets hoped he would be. In 105 Major League games, he has been a -1.8 WAR. In his rookie season, he was out of shape, and last year, he showed up late to the first Spring Training game. He’d soon suffer an injury, and his entire 2018 season was a disappointment.
In the time since his first call-up to the majors, the Mets have experimented with moving him to left field only to abandon that plan. He has seen himself surpassed by Pete Alonso on the depth chart. He now comes to Spring Training with something to prove, and as Smith told Kyle Glasser of Baseball America, he intends to prove himself.
When discussing Smith, the topic with frequently comes to mind is his fitness. Smith is noticeably in better shape now. In fact, it’s the best shape he’s been as a professional baseball player. According to Smith, he has lost 45 pounds through both working out and maintaining a good diet. Smith says his motivation comes from his time in the majors seeing some of the best in the game play. One thing which really stood out to him was “the best players are some of the best athletes first, and then they’re good baseball players second.” Smith is now endeavoring to be that.
His experience in the majors not only convinced him he needed to be thinner and more athletic, but he also had to realize he had to make mechanical adjustments at the plate. Smith has quieted himself at the plate, and he’s more balanced. As he told Glasser, “Now, I’m more tall, so I can really sit on that back hip and really reach and read the pitches now.”
This is a really important adjustment for Smith. As MMO‘s Mathew Brownstein noted Smith really struggled against the breaking ball in his limited time in the Majors. That translated to a .234 xwOBA in 2017 and a .171 xwOBA in 2018. Overall, he had an alarming 28.9 percent strike out rate. Judging from yesterday’s game, the new approach will yield better results as he stayed in with a curveball, and he was able to drive it for a base hit:
Couple nice #Mets clips from an ugly loss today:
• Dominic Smith drops the bat head on a curveball for a base hit
• Eric Hanhold ties up Harold Castro with a back foot slider for a K
• Prospect Anthony Dirocie rips a ball on the ground for a single pic.twitter.com/gB65XW9jf6
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) February 27, 2019
Seeing Smith this Spring, you see a different player. You see someone who is driven to be better, and he has put in the work to be better. With him still being just 23 years old, he still has the future ahead of him. He still knows it, and he’s here to compete. In the end, Smith hopes when it comes time to build the 25 man Opening Day roster he will “make it hard on the Mets and Brodie to make a decision.”