A dismal season for the New York Mets has shown some promise for the future. Mets fans will have an even better look at the future August 11, when No. 2 prospect Dominic Smith is expected to make his professional debut with the club in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Mets called up Smith to the main roster on August 11 and he will look to make the most of the opportunity in what’s being considered a nothing-to-lose situation.
Smith, a 22-year-old left-handed first baseman, has been highly touted by scouts, who are fans of his ability at the plate and fielding.
“Smith continues to have a very advanced approach at the plate with outstanding bat-to-ball skills, leading to the consistent batting average, good walk and low strikeout rates,” MLB.com wrote in a scouting report. “Smith continues to show outstanding defensive ability at first, with very good footwork and excellent hands.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Smith Played Youth Baseball in California & Took Part in Several MLB Initiatives
There was a lot of potential in Smith at a young age. He took part in Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and also saw his potential grow through the Urban Youth Academy.
“I’m very proud of you,” Smith told friend and initiative teammate J.P. Crawford. “We’re always going to be brothers, no matter what.”
Smith spoke highly of his participation in the two programs, saying he was able to get on the radar of MLB scouts and improve his abilities at the same time.
“They mean a ton,” he said of the programs to MLB.com. “They exposed me to so much baseball and got me to this point. Without them, I wouldn’t even be here. They exposed me with the scholarship, the traveling, baseball around the world. It has taken me to places like China, Florida, Arizona, I could keep naming them all. Without that exposure, I don’t think I would be here today.”
2. Smith was Born in California & Committed to USC
Smith was the star player on the Junipero Serra High School roster in Gardena, California.
A USA Today High School Sports article touted not only his ability at the plate, but also his defense.
“He’s also one of the best fielding first basemen in the country,” the article said.
According to his MaxPreps profile, he batted .493 and had an OBP of .635 to go along with 37 RBIs and 33 runs scored in his senior season. He also played in the outfield and pitched for the team prior to his graduation from the school in 2014.
Smith’s high school coach, Wil Aaron, spoke very highly of his star player, who led the Cavaliers to a division championship in 2013.
“He’s too good at first base to play at designated hitter,” Aaron said the USA Today. “His hands are like magic. He’s like the matrix out there. The other day, he fielded a bunt up the first base line. Domo charges the ball, fields it with his right (glove) hand and then reverses back, leaping to catch the runner on the foot. Unbelievable.”
Smith committed to the University of Southern California and intended on playing baseball for the Trojans.
3. Smith Was Drafted in 2013 Out of High School & Impressed in the Minors
Boasting such a strong prep resume, Smith was drafted by the Mets in the 2013 MLB Draft out of high school. He was the No. 11 overall selection in the draft and agreed to forgo his collegiate career in favor of starting his path toward the MLB. He signed a contract and earned a $2.6 million signing bonus.
After he made the decision, he was assigned to play Gulf Coast Mets of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, and he wasted no time making a mark.
Smith batted .287 with 3 home runs and 22 RBIs in 48 games and was promoted to the Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League, another rookie-level league. In his first few games on the squad, he hit four doubles in six at-bats.
In 2014, he spent the season with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Class-A South Atlantic League, but struggled. He finished the season with just 1 homer, 44 RBIs and 77 strikeouts. He transitioned to the St. Luci Mets of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League in 2015 and got off to a slow start, going 0-for-22 to start May and batted a dismal .143 in his first 16 games.
Things started to turn around, though, and he strung together a 16-game hitting streak and rose his batting average. In June 2015, he batted .352 and led the league with 38 hits. He closed the season by leading the league with 79 RBIs and 33 doubles and was named the Player of the Year in the league.
Smith was promoted to the Class AA Eastern League the following year and played for the Binghamton Mets. He continued to impress there, hitting .302 with 14 homers and 91 RBIs for the season.
To start 2017, Smith was on the Las Vegas 51s of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. In 114 games, he batted .330 with 76 RBIs and 16 homers before he was finally called up to the main roster in August.
4. Smith’s Parents Worked Separately to Raise Their 7 Children
Smith is the son of Clay Smith and Yvette LaFleur. The couple had six children between them when he was born, and they lived separately but worked together to raise their children.
Clay worked as a dog trainer and a groomer while Yvette works in child care, an article by the New York Times said.
“His dad and I, whatever we had, we shared,” Yvette said to the newspaper. “We always had a household of kids. I’d open my door, and a lot of people come in and out. If that’s what we chose to do with our life, that’s O.K. You have to give back. Dominic is aware that there’s a calling bigger than him, bigger than baseball. There’s a team that helped him get to this point.”
Neither of his parents attended college, and his mother struggled with drugs and alcohol while he grew up, though she’s now been sober for 15 years, The Times reported.
5. Some Analysts See Smith as a Top First-Base Prospect
Smith has been widely regarded as the best first baseman prospect in all of baseball.
“He is an extraordinarily disciplined, calm hitter, showing an advanced two-strike approach and willingness to use the whole field,” ESPN’s Keith Law said.
Knowing what was ahead of him this season, Smith made an effort to make a few tweaks to his game. Known for his tendency to settle for opposite-field hits instead of waiting for better pitches, he’s tried changing his approach and mentality at the plate.
“One of my tendencies is that I like to take the first few pitches, I don’t try to do too much,” he told MLB.com. “As part of my swing and approach, I try to take what the pitcher gives me. Anything away or middle-away, I’m not going to try to yank.”
It remains to be seen if that skill level will transition to the majors.