Smith waltzed towards the plate for an at-bat that, considering his prospect status when he was first promoted last year, felt way overdue. Of course, when you hit .198/.262/.391 and post a dWAR of -1.0 as Smith did in his first 49 games the season prior, no roster spot is going to be handed to you.
What’s more, when you’re subsequently docked from your lone spring training appearance for showing up late and spend the next month nursing a strained quad, people may even forget you once checked in as the team’s second-best prospect.
The meteoric rise of first base prospect Peter Alonso, who is currently hitting .357/.471/.652 with eight homers and 26 RBI in Double-A Binghamton, has also put somewhat of a damper on Smith’s current value.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of signs pointing to a rebound for Smith, who despite criticism from the organization and fans, has made substantial changes. Most notably, Smith, who ended the 2017 season at 250 pounds, currently stands in at a trimmer 215, per Tim Healey. He ended his spring at 222, for what it’s worth.
Not even injuries have stopped the 22-year old who, for all the flak he’s caught about his disappointing stint last year, still had a 54 at-bat stretch where he hit .315/.383/.630 with four homers and 14 RBI. As Adrian Gonzalez‘s numbers have tailed, no less, Smith, who has posted a .390 OBP in Triple-A (69 points higher than that of A-Gon), is comfortably easing himself back into the discussion.
Granted, Smith’s .807 OPS is a stark drop-off from his more powerful .905 display the season prior, and Jay Bruce‘s imminent return from the paternity list may spell an unfortunate end to his weekend in terms of his place on the active roster. It’s still important to consider that Smith is playing in a body he has never played in before and is clearly trying to figure out:
“I’m just trying to get used to my body and get comfortable,” Smith admitted before his debut last night. “I missed all of spring, so going down [to Vegas] and playing every day is definitely very different from the whole spring training environment of working your way into game-like at-bats.”
The changes, for Smith, have been anything but overnight. He still has some ways to go before he can solidify his name as a force in the lineup, but his path is still drawn out, and the work he has put in to make the necessary adjustments should not go unnoticed. Smith has a lot to prove, but little to be frustrated with looking ahead. His window is still very much open.