Projecting Dominic Smith

With Jay Bruce on his way to Cleveland, the Mets have called up Dominic Smith to play first base for the remainder of the year. The Mets took Smith with the 11th overall pick out of high school back in 2013. He was hitting a smooth .330/.386/.519 at Triple-A this year, although those numbers were certainly helped by the PCL and his home ballpark in Las Vegas.

When taken in the context of his league and ballpark, Smith’s .188 ISO isn’t all that impressive. And while he’s hit for a high average, it hasn’t been due to his making a lot of contact as evidenced by his 17% strikeout rate. Instead, he’s gotten there by way of a .380 BABIP. In sum, Smith is a first baseman with unremarkable power and contact skills. That isn’t to say Smith isn’t an interesting prospect. While his 2017 performance is suspect, his 2016 numbers were much more promising. He made a lot of contact in Double-A last year while also hitting for decent power in a non-PCL environment. It’s also important to remember that Smith just turned 22, making him quite young for Triple-A. And finally, both the metrics and lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen view Smith as an above-average defensive first baseman, which takes a bit of pressure off of his bat.

My KATOH system pegs Smith for 6.0 WAR over his first six seasons by the stats-only method and 5.6 WAR by KATOH+, which incorporates his No. 50 rank on Baseball America’s midseason list. Those marks place him 52nd and 68th, respectively, among prospects.

To put some faces to Smith’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps. I calculated a Mahalanobis distance between Smith’s 2017 performance and every season since 1991. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.

Dominic Smith Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Dernell Stenson 5.2 0.5
2 Adrian Gonzalez 3.0 19.1
3 Mario Valdez 3.3 0.1
4 Casey Kotchman 4.4 6.7
5 Dernell Stenson 3.2 0.5
6 Kevin Witt 2.8 0.0
7 Derrek Lee 6.9 11.5
8 Steve Cox 4.7 1.4
9 David Ortiz 4.2 14.8
10 Chris Carter 8.4 0.0

Smith is a good prospect, but it isn’t entirely clear that he’s ready for the show just yet. Despite his gaudy stat line, his performance has been more good than great after accounting for his environment. Steamer sees him as a 89 wRC+ hitter right now, which is awfully light for a first baseman. But seeing how the Mets aren’t competing this year, they have little to lose by giving Smith 50 games to show what he can do.

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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Jorge Fabregas
Jorge Fabregas

Looks like there’s a paste from an older article–“Hoskins” before the chart.