Callis' AFL observations: Mets' Dom Smith
First baseman showing why he was named Florida State League MVP
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario and Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez are off to strong starts, but no hitter has been hotter in the first 10 days of the Arizona Fall League season than Mets first baseman Dominic Smith.
Smith has hit safely in each of the six games he has played in and has walked in five of them. Coming off three-hit games on Thursday and Friday, he leads the AFL in batting (.650), on-base percentage (.741) and OPS (1.641).
That is the type of dynamic offensive player the Mets envisioned when they selected him 11th overall in the 2013 Draft, the earliest a high school first baseman has been picked since Eric Hosmer went No. 3 to the Royals in 2008. But it took Smith a while to live up to his scouting reports once he got to full-season ball.
Class A Savannah's Grayson Stadium was a graveyard for hitters, although that couldn't fully explain Smith's .271/.344/.338 line with just one homer in 126 games when he played for the Sand Gnats in 2014. The high Class A Florida State League favors pitchers as well, and he hit just .157 in his first month at St. Lucie this year.
Smith got in gear after that, finishing the 2015 season with a .305/.354/.417 line including six homers in 118 games. He won the FSL MVP award, leading the league with 33 doubles and 79 RBI despite missing the last week of the season with shoulder stiffness.
In a September Pipeline Podcast, Smith said he snapped out of his funk by picking the brains of several big leaguers who did rehab work in St. Lucie (Michael Cuddyer, Travis d'Arnaud and Daniel Murphy among them), as well as Michael Conforto, who began the season in the FSL and ended it in the World Series. Smith also credited film work with St. Lucie hitting coach Joel Fuentes, who helped him tone down his leg kick at the plate.
Smith has a simple, direct left-handed swing and doesn't try to do too much at the plate, an approach that serves him well against southpaws. He doesn't try to uppercut the ball or yank it out of the park, content for now to barrel balls with ease and deliver hard line drives to all fields.
He has the strength and bat speed to produce power, and Smith will show that during batting practice. One AFL observer noted that he drifts slightly toward first base in his swing, which cuts down on his pop for now. He should be able to eliminate that flaw and has at least 20-homer potential.
Smith's first AFL homer came Thursday night, when he pounced on a mediocre fastball from Glendale right-hander Rob Rogers (Dodgers) and pulled it over the right-field fence. He had only one bad plate appearance among his 10 in the past two days, fanning against a breaking ball from Mesa righty Kris Hall (Athletics) on Friday. Other than that, Smith was rarely fooled and used the entire field while collecting six hits (two to left, three up the middle and the homer to right).