The Curious Case of First Base

Photo: Associated Press

What a conundrum the Mets are in… With Pete Alonso looking like he can dominate First Base for the Mets for the next 15 years, and Dom Smith quickly showing his critics that he has potential still, the New York Mets sure seem like they have quite the dilemma. And that’s a good thing!

I’m sure if you asked some New York Mets fans (and even members of the media), who has been the most disappointing prospect out of the last couple of years, I’d bet prospect-turned-major-leauger Dominic Smith would come to most minds.

When you think of the 2019 New York Mets and their position at first base, Pete Alonso has got to be the first name out of your mouth, and for good reason. Alonso is one of the top prospects in Major League Baseball based on stats alone, and his bat excites Mets fans looking for a new star at first base. So far in Spring Training, Alonso is hitting .414 with 3 HR, and 6 RBI. He’s also the bulk of the Mets’ marketing down in Port St. Lucie.

But before the buzz around Alonso was even a thing, there was Smith.

While some are ready to write off Smith as a bust, I have always skeptical about making such grand predictions like this too early on. In other sports, success can be immediate for prospects. I’m thinking specifically about basketball and football, but in baseball, it is a long journey to determine a player’s worth and ability.

Drafted out of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, California in the first round and eleventh overall by the New York Mets back in 2013, Smith was ranked No. 71 by Baseball America’s Top Prospects in 2017.

Immediately, Smith had high expectations from Mets fans, imagining he would develop into the answer the team was looking for at first base. Splitting time between first base and left field, Smith made his debut in the major leagues in 2017. Then 22-years-old, Smith didn’t make a splash as expected coming out of the Mets’ Triple-A Team in Las Vegas. Between struggles defensively and offensively (He hit a measly .198) — it dashed away many of those dreams Mets fans had, moving them away from Smith’s camp and into awaiting the arrival of Alonso who was generating a lot of buzz in the minor leagues.

But Smith is only 23-years-old, and it is too soon to determine whether he is the future of the Mets at first base or a complete bust.  So far, in Spring Training, Smith is hitting .423 with 1 HR and 7 RBIs. These stats coupled with Smith’s attitude towards improving himself and his body in a Q&A with Baseball America, are certainly helping Smith’s case.

While it seems that the first baseman’s job in Queens was Pete Alonso’s to lose potentially going into camp déjà vu might strike the Mets again with Smith coming into contention for the job… kind of like the competition between Lucas Duda and Ike Davis a couple of years ago. A situation like this would be in the best interest for the Mets, right?

Yet Smith’s story reminds me a little bit about another player across the river. New York Yankee Didi Gregorius started playing shortstop in 2015 after the retirement of Derek Jeter. Despite having rather large cleats to fill early on in the season Yankees fans and members of the media were extremely critical of Gregorius. He was then about 25-years-old. Gregorius would eventually turn into a solid starter for the Yankees. Smith is still even younger coming into this year than Gregorius’ time of trial here in New York.

So 23, is just way too young of an age to give up on a prospect or player for that matter. Even though Alonso is a year older than Smith, both still need to continue their development and the best course of action is to wait and see what both players eventually turn into. Although it is early in camp, Dominic Smith is showing the Mets he still has a lot of promise when it comes to first base. While the job to me is still Pete Alonso’s to lose based on his performance, a starting roster containing both Smith and Alonso isn’t a terrible idea and puts the Mets in a pretty great position.

Let’s wait to see what both players amount to before being so quick to pull that judgment trigger.

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  1. Pingback: Under New Management? — The Culture Feels Different for the New York Mets – Amazin' Prospects

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