Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com recently named Mets 1B prospect Dominic Smith the second-best first baseman in the minor leagues.
Smith was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
“He looks like the total package at first base, combining solid athleticism and defense with a sweet left-handed swing,” Mayo said of the 18 year old.
In 2013, he began slowly, hitting .182/.270/.291 in his first 16 games. However, he hit .399/.437/.464 with nine extra-base hits and 17 walks in his next 135 plate appearances.
He is without a doubt one of the team’s top position player prospects. Despite the fact that Smith was one of the youngest hitters in the draft, the Mets assigned him to Savannah this year, treating him more aggressively than their previous two first round picks from high school: Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini.
Smith, who will not turn 19 until June 15, spent most of his winter working out in Michigan and St. Lucie to prepare for his full-season debut in 2014. Scouts use words like “pretty,” “smooth,” and “sweet,” to describe his left-handed swing. Gnats manager Luis Rojas has praised Smith’s maturity.
Smith will be playing his home games in Historic Grayson Stadium, which is extremely hostile to left-handed power, so his maturity will be tested on nearly daily basis.[/sny-editorial]
Toby Hyde: You made the Sand Gnats, becoming the first Mets first round pick in three years to join the Gnats the year after you were drafted. How did you find out you made the team?
Dominic Smith: I found out I made this team the second to last day of Spring Training. They posted all of the teams out on the board. You basically go and look and see what team you are. I’m lucky I made the Sand Gnats. The next day, we had a team meeting, letting us know officially that we made the team. I’m just blessed to be here and I’m just grateful that I can come out here and play for the Sand Gnats.
Toby Hyde: Think back to a year ago. You were in high school at this point. At this time in the day, 3 pm on the east coast, noon on the west coast, you were probably in class in high school, right?
Dominic Smith: Definitely, definitely. A year ago, I was probably on lunch time, hanging out with my buddies back home. That year passing has been a whirlwind. My life has taken me so many different places. Like I said, I’m just blessed to be here. I just thank god because I want this to be my career. There are things you have to do: you have to go whereever they tell you to go and you have to play. I’m just happy to be here.
Toby Hyde: Is it almost a relief to get out on the field, with things moving fast [in your life]?
Dominic Smith: Yeah, when you’re out on the field, it really gets your mind free and away from everything in your life. The only thing in my mind at that moment is baseball – playing baseball, performing, doing your job and putting on a show for the fans. It’s a lot of fun on the field and it slows my life down a lot when I’m actually out there.
Toby Hyde: This is going to sound like a silly question, but what’s been the biggest change in your life in the last year? All these things moving fast – you graduate high school, get drafted, you sign, you go play in the GCL, you go up to the Appalachian League, get to play in the playoffs, spend the full offseason working out. A ton’s happened in the last year. What’s been the biggest change in you?
Dominic Smith: The biggest change in me is just maturing more. I was just a kid last year… I’m the youngest one on this team. It just shows you that you need to mature quickly. Being around these other guys helps me mature and become a better person and it helps me be responsible. I’m 18, out here on my own for the most part, so it helps you grow up a little quicker…
Toby Hyde: How’d you get ready for this season?
Dominic Smith: The Mets sent me to Michigan. I worked out with Duda, Tejada, Matt Reynolds, Phil Evans, Flores, Lagares… They sent us all down there in November to work out for a month. Then I came home, then moved to Port St. Lucie – worked out with the Mets a little bit, then in January, they sent us back up there so I did a lot of training with Mike Barwis and Barwis Methods down in Michigan. He’s a great guy. He really loves his God. I really learned a lot, and got some really good training in.
Toby Hyde: Where do you think you’re swing is now? You said, “ready”… but where do you think your swing is as we line up for Opening Day?
Dominic Smith: I don’t really focus on the swing. I focus more on seeing the ball: picking up pitches and seeing the ball really well. My swing is going to get there regardless. It’s just about squaring the ball up, and hitting it hard. I mean, you could hit the ball hard five times and not get a hit. It’s more about just picking up breaking balls, and laying off breaking balls and stuff like that. That’s where I measure where my swing is. If I’m laying off of those things, it’s going to be a fun year.
Toby Hyde: In terms of picking up pitches, if that’s your goal, are you looking for it out of a pitcher’s hand, even before that, when do you start looking for the ball?
Dominic Smith: You pick up a spot, right by his ear, for me at least [depending on] where his arm slot is. Most normal pitchers arm slot is right by the ear. … Whatever I see the pitcher do to other batters, especially left-handed hitters – then I kinda pick up on that. A lot of pitchers at the lower levels tip their pitches and they pitch a lot of lefties the same. All you gotta do is be smart about it. Playing in pro baseball is more mental than physical.
Toby Hyde: That ties into what you learned last year. And you just told us, it’s more mental than physical. What was the toughest part about coming back the next day after playing a game the day before?
Dominic Smith: The toughest part about it, is really remembering the day before. When you play everyday, you want to have short-term memory. You want to forget that moment, that game, whether you went 3-for-3 with three bombs, or 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. You want to forget about it. It’s in the past, you can’t go back and change it. All you can do is move forward and get better everyday. You have to have a short memory in this game and forget about the past.
Here is a recent SNY.TV Prospect File on Smith, featuring video of him in action during Spring Training: