You could already hear the whispers and murmurs ratcheting up as first base prospect Dominic Smith struggled through a 7-for-50 slump and ended his first month in the big leagues with a .197 OBP and a .313 slugging percentage in 71 plate appearances.
These were not the gaudy numbers many were expecting after Smith was promoted following the trade of Lucas Duda, who had manned the first base position for nearly six years and left behind a .533 slugging and .879 OPS in his final season with the Mets.
Only 22-years old, and coming off a monster campaign at Triple-A Las Vegas where he collected 34 doubles, 16 home runs and 76 RBIs in just 457 at-bats, Smith was expected to step into some pretty big shoes and continue hitting at his torrid .907 OPS pace without so much as a hiccup or breaking-in period. But that’s not always how it works at the big league level.
“My whole career I’ve always started slow, so it didn’t bother me,” Smith told the Bergen Record. “I’m good enough to play at this level, I know I belong, and if I continue to stick to the process and stick to my approach of hitting the ball hard, things will continue to turn around.”
I’m happy to report that since the calendar turned to September, Dominic Smith has done a complete 180 at the plate, batting .289 with a .357 OBP, two home runs, three doubles, and eight RBIs in 42 plate appearances this month. And as for those questions about his power, Smith entered yesterday’s action with a .526 slugging percentage this month and an .883 OPS.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got a lot to learn, so, just let him play and don’t let him get too down about having an 0-for-6. It happens to everybody,” manager Terry Collins said after watching Smith blast his sixth home run as a major leaguer against the Chicago Cubs.
It may take a couple of years before Smith truly hits his stride but for now the Mets are content with just letting their former first-rounder get some on-the-job training at the big league level, hoping that it will pay some big dividends in the future.
“It’s not often when young guys can walk into a situation where there is no pressure on how they have to perform,” Smith noted. “For me to be in this situation where it’s more about my development than my performance, it’s awesome. I get to learn every day and not be worried or stressed out. Take every at-bat for what it is and gain knowledge and experience and take it all with me into next year.”
Obviously, there will be plenty more of the ups and downs that Smith has exhibited thus far in his short major league stint, and fans and media alike shouldn’t get too wrapped up in any initial growing pains. But I must confess, that the flashes of dominance Smith’s been able to display these last two weeks, certainly gives me some pause and heightens my expectations of the budding big-time slugger Dominic Smith could one day become.