We've already begun our encompassing look at the first base position with the release of our consensus top 30 first basemen for the 2014 season. We will not be releasing a top prospect list by position this year, so there is no list of top 20 first base prospects coming, for the simple reason that ranking them for position isn't likely to help a lot of fantasy owners. Instead, as a part of each position, the prospect staff will look at a few prospects at each position who could potentially have an impact during the 2014 season. Next up is our look at Mets' first base prospect Dominic Smith.
Weight: 185 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: No
Protect After: 2017 Season
DOB: 6/15/1995 (Age 19 Season)
Smith attended Junipero Serra HS in Gardena, California, where he was a four-year varsity player. Scouts had been hearing about him for a long time, built on eye-popping season each time. Across all four seasons, he hit a ridiculous .551/.628/.973 with 21 home runs and 163 RBI in just 387 plate appearances. He even pitched each year, throwing a total of 141 innings with a 2.67 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 93 walks. He came into the draft ranked at #14 overall by Baseball America, but didn't even last that long, going to the Mets with the 11th overall pick.
The team was able to get him signed to a bonus of $2.6 million, which was under slot by about a quarter million dollars. He signed just a couple weeks after the draft, which allowed him to get moving quickly. The organization sent him to their GCL affiliate, where he hit .287/.384/.407 with three home runs in 46 games. He was moved to their Appy League affiliate on August 28th, where he appeared in three regular season games and two playoff games.
The Scouting Report
Smith's value to both fantasy owners and the Mets starts with his bat, which was considered to be one of the best of the prep draft class last year. He relies on a smooth left-handed swing that is expected to generate power potential down the line as he continues to grow and mature. He also has excellent pitch-recognition for a high school draftee, and was able to post an excellent walk rate in his short stint this year (over 12%). There are questions about the utility of his power, which will be a key determinant in how useful he is for fantasy owners.
While he is limited to first base defensively (in part due to being left-handed and also below average speed), he is considered an excellent fielder at the position, and has a plus arm to go with it. While it doesn't necessarily help out fantasy owners, it does bode well for his overall value to the Mets, and takes at least a small amount of pressure off of the bat to produce value.
When Could He Arrive?
Smith seems likely to head to full-season Low-A for the 2014 season, and at a level-per-year rate could be in the Majors at some point in 2017, when he will be 22 years old.
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
There appears to be very few concerns that Smith will be able to hit for a good batting average and provide a solid on-base percentage to go with it. If he ends up as a 20+ home run hitter, his value at first base goes up drastically. If he doesn't, he'll be more of a deeper league play. There is the potential for a top 10 first baseman there, providing averages around .300 with 20+ home runs.
Smith is an interesting prospect, as he has the potential to retain enough value with his bat despite being a first base prospect long-term. I think he's probably among the top 15 prospects from this year's draft for fantasy purposes in spite of the positional profile, and would slot in as the #2 prospect at first base for me behind Jonathan Singleton. I want to see what he does in a full season of minor league ball before vaulting him up my own rankings, but the future is bright for Smith.
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Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball