by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Mets’ Dominic Smith has widely been regarded as one of the better first base prospects since being drafted 11th overall in the 2013 draft. Despite the hype there were legitimate concerns about his power potential, after combining to hit 10 HR from 2013-2015. He “exploded” for 14 HR at Double-A in 2016, and while it is a step in the right direction is it enough from a first baseman?
This seems like the same questions that had been hanging over the Pirates’ Josh Bell, until recently, and makes you wonder if Smith is following a similar path.
Bell showed more power initially (13 HR at Single-A in 2013) before producing 16 total HR between 2014 and 2015. He also arguably has a better eye at the plate, at least in terms of drawing a walk, though both players have consistently proven capable of making contact. Just look at the Double-A numbers in their relatively full seasons at the level:
- Bell (2015, 426 PA) – 11.7% strikeout rate, 10.3% walk rate
- Smith (2016, 542 PA) – 13.7% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate
Both Bell and Smith have also shown similar GO/AO over the course of their career, further helping to explain the limited power numbers:
- Bell – 1.44
- Smith – 1.49
So the question hanging over both of them has been unlocking their power. Bell has appeared to do so, with a total of 31 doubles, 4 triples and 17 HR in ’16. Will Smith follow suit? Here is what he said recently in an interview with Michael Avallone of MILB.com (click here to view):
“I want to improve every year in every category, but the power was the one thing I really wanted to showcase. It really took me until this past year to get my swing in tune with my body and learn how to be a solid run producer. It’s like a game of chess: you pick your spots to do damage with the long ball. I wanted to develop and drive balls all over the field but also play the cat-and-mouse game of picking spots to do maximum damage; in the past, I didn’t do that. I’m looking to drive the ball with authority in certain situations as opposed to just getting a hit.”
Maybe he doesn’t develop into a 30+ HR threat, but he appears primed to hit 20-25 per season (much like Bell). When coupled with his approach, you are looking someone who should routinely hit .280+ (and potentially .300) with good power. They aren’t going to be Joey Votto, but they are going to be closer to him then the James Loney comparisons that have once been thrown around.
Smith isn’t there yet, but if you are a believer in Bell you should definitely be a believer in Smith. The upside is there and we’ve seen a similar trajectory before. Don’t give up hope.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, Baseball Reference
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
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