Heading into the 2014 season, Dominic Smith was considered one of the best position players in the Mets minor league system. Baseball America rated him as the Mets’ 4th best prospect, and the 92nd prospect overall in MLB. Smith was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 draft, and quickly got off to a hot start early in his career. He batted .303 with an impressive .398 on base percentage in 173 at-bats at the rookie level during his first professional season. After this encouraging performance, the Mets aggressively promoted Smith to Single-A Savannah where he played for the entire 2014 season.
The most discussed topic about Smith this year has been his extremely low power numbers. Over 461 at-bats for Savannah, Smith has hit just one home run along with 26 doubles. While these stats appear problematic, they are not much of a concern when they are put into context. Smith played his home games at Historic Grayson Park, which is considered to be one of the toughest places to hit for power in the minors. Over the past several years, Grayson Park has yielded the least amount of home runs throughout the entire minor leagues.
In addition to playing half of his games in an extreme pitcher’s park, Smith is one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League at just 19 years old. The average player in the league is close to 22 years old, making Smith is about three years younger than the competition. Since Smith is far less experienced than the pitchers he has faced, he should not be judged harshly based off his numbers this season. Power is often the last skill that develops for prospects, so it is likely that he will hit for more power as he get gets older and stronger.
Despite his underwhelming power stats, there are a few positives worth noting this season. Smith posted a respectable .271 average and a .344 OBP. He also showed a good eye at the plate and an ability to hit for contact with 51 walks and just 77 strikeouts. While these numbers are not excellent, they are promising signs that he could develop into a solid hitter in the future.
It would have been nice to see Smith produce more in his first full season, but the Mets need to remain patient with him. He is obviously some time away from the majors, but his upside is still tremendous. He has the potential to hit for average and power while also playing a solid defense at first base. Smith clearly has the tools to eventually advance to the majors, and it is only a matter of time before his power begins to manifest itself.