Height/Weight: 6’0”/185 lbs
Acquired: 1st rd – 11th overall (Serra HS)
Born: 6/15/95 (Los Angeles, CA)
2013 Rank: N/A | Stats
Why Ranked Here: First rounders, from the top half of the draft belong in the top 10 the subsequent year. And the hope is that Smith develops into a middle of the order bat with plus defense.
In contrast with Rosario, who is just five months younger, and ranked just behind him, Smith has a very clean swing mechanically. In his preparation, there is a short stride, and a short load. He stays balanced throughout, and then brings his hands directly to the ball. He shows a good ability to keep his hands inside the ball and pull it, but keep it fair. There is batspeed and strength through contact. It all just looks good. The homerun in the video below is about as good a swing as you will find in a GCL game. Sure, he can get out on his front foot at times if he’s too quick to transfer his weight, but for a young player straight out of high school, this is almost nit-picky criticism. There are more good looks at his swing here.
Smith has been drawing rave reviews for his defense before and after the draft. He has a good arm that is nearly wasted at first, moves well for now, and has nice soft hands.
My major concern with Smith is his body. Smith is listed at 6’0”, 185 lbs. In truth, in 2013, I thought he was a touch under 6’0”. There just are not a lot of above average 6’0” first basemen in modern baseball.
I checked Baseball Reference for all first baseman seasons by guys 6’0” or shorter in the last 30 years. Since 1984, this group put up are 53 player seasons above 3.0 bWAR and 42 seasons above 4.0 bWAR. Jeff Bagwell alone is responsible for 14 of those above 3 bWAR. Now, lets limit ourselves to seasons at or above 4.0 bWAR – the impact level performances and we find 11 such players who have had seasons this good.
I’ve also included each player’s listed weight per Baseballreference (and yes, some are fanciful).
Here’s the fun list:
- Jeff Bagwell (12) – 195 lbs (!)
- Don Mattingly (5) – 175 lbs
- Rafael Palmeiro (10) – 180 lbs
- Prince Fielder (3) – 275 lbs
- Keith Hernandez (3) – 180 lbs
- Daric Barton (1) – 205 lbs
- George Brett (2) – 185
- Gregg Jeffries (1) – 175 lbs
- Brad Wilkerson (1) – 200lbs
- John Kruk (3) – 170 lbs (!)
- Mike Napoli (1) – 220 lbs
The first two guys, Bagwell and Palmeiro, who belong in the Hall of Fame, have counted for just over half (22 of 42 ) of seasons of 4.0 WAR as a first baseman in the last 30 years. Bagwell is an easy HoF case: he’s 6th in JAWS All-Time at the position. Palmeiro, on the merits of his on-field accomplishments is too; he’s 11th in JAWS and has the gaudy counting stats (3,000 hits and 500 homers).
After that, among the true 1B types, we’re looking at three “Hall of Very Good” types who are revered in their own cities: Mattingly, Kruk and Keith and his moustache. These were productive players who were certainly good enough to contribute to championship teams.
Then there are the late-career position switchers, who hit enough to be impact guys at first as they shifted down the defensive spectrum. This includes a few late peak seasons of George Brett after he moved off third, and Mike Napoli, who began his baseball life as a catcher.
Finally there are the one-and-done former top prospects: Daric Barton and Greg Jeffries. Barton walked 110 times in 2010, with a .131 isolated slugging percentage in his age 24 season. He hasn’t topped a .106 isolated slugging percentage since. Jeffries’ 1993 with Philadelphia is a wonderful example of a career season, and yes, he was mostly a 1B that year, playing 140 games at first. He never eclipsed 2.7 bWAR in any of his 13 other MLB campaigns.
Brad Wilkerson’s career year in 2004 was also aberrant, his 32 homers were 12 more than his second-best career output and his 5.0 bWAR was far higher than his second-best 3.3 bwAR from 2003 and way higher than his third-best 1.9 bWAR in 2005 which, at age 28 was his final season appreciably above replacement level.
The point: you have to be really special to be an impact first baseman at 6’0”. Perhaps Dominic Smith has that kind of talent, but it is really rare.
2013: Smith had as strong a professional debut as one can really have. Playing immediately after his 18th birthday, he showed game power and strike zone control: picking up an extra-base hit in almost 10% of his plate appearances walked in 13% compared to a 17% strikeout rate. He earned a promotion to Kingsport for the Appalachian League playoffs as well.
Dr. Pangloss Says: An elite MLB firstbaseman who controls the strike zone, hits for average and power and adds a win’s worth of value defensively.
Debbie Downer Says: Just not quite physical enough, and doesn’t generate enough power to be an above average first baseman. The hit tool gets him to the big leagues. For a player so young, that’s a pretty low degree of variance.
Projected 2014 Start: Savannah
MLB Arrival: 2017
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