Going into the offseason, the Mets made it clear to first base prospect Dominic Smith that he needed to lose weight and get in better shape. It was also made clear that he was not guaranteed a starting job this season.
Nobody was more publicly critical of the 22-year-old than GM Sandy Alderson who had this to say, as detailed by the New York Times:
“He didn’t win it in September, let’s put it that way. Dominic is going to have to be careful about his physical conditioning certainly over the next few years, if not throughout his career.”
So while Dominic Smith has lost almost 30 pounds, as written by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the Mets have already moved onto someone else at first base.
Adrian Gonzalez will be taking the reins in all likelihood to start the 2018 season, regardless of the type of shape Smith is in. While Gonzalez is only making the league minimum, the Mets brought him in to start on Opening Day as long as he is healthy.
Smith, though, feels as good as he ever has as he says here:
“I feel more athletic than I’ve ever been. In spring training, I’ve always looked the part, but as far as my mobility and loosening up some hips and being more flexible, more agile as an athlete, I feel like this is the most advanced I’ve been for sure in my career.”
That’s awesome to hear that he is in great shape, but there is something to be concerned about in this regard. Smith had a very similar situation last offseason.
The first-baseman looked really slimmed out and mobile in Spring Training, but as the season wore on he started to gain most or even all of the weight back.
Once he was called up to the Majors, the concerns about his weight were exacerbated as he also struggled performance wise.
The former first-round pick hit .198/.262/.395/.658 with 17 runs, nine home runs, and 26 RBI in 167 at-bats to give him a 73 wRC+.
His defense was also a weakness in 2017 as he had a UZR/150 of -2.8 and -7 defensive runs saved. Overall he was worth a -0.6 WAR according to Fangraphs.
So the Mets are probably fair to fear that Smith could fall into the same trap again. However, one thing the Mets should consider is that diets are easier to maintain at the major-league level than they are in the minor leagues.
At the MLB level, the team usually regulates the diets of the players while at the minor-league level they tend to give most of their players free-reign on their diets.
If the Mets truly want to regulate and watch over their former top-prospect, it would make sense to have him play at the MLB level sooner rather than later so they can keep a closer eye on him.
Sending him down to the minors to begin the season is certainly the most likely scenario, but it would likely be best for everyone if Smith could reclaim the job early in the season.