According to MiLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Mets 1B prospect Dominic Smith is the second-best first baseman in the minor leagues.
Smith, who was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2013 draft, played just 51 games in his first professional season, but hit .301 with a .398 OBP and a .837 OPS.
“He looks like the total package at first base, combining solid athleticism and defense with a sweet left-handed swing,” Mayo said of the 18 year old.
Smith could skip Brooklyn and start his first full season in Low-A Savannah, the organization recently said in an online chat about the farm system.
Recently, MetsBlog’s Michael Baron had a chance to speak with Smith, during which they discussed his transition to professional baseball, his experience at this year’s offseason training camp in Michigan, and handling fans and media:
Michael Baron: You’ve made quite an impression on talent evaluators, despite having such limited professional experience. Some have already described you as the best first base prospect in the game. How are you able to keep things in perspective and mute that noise?
Dominic Smith: I don’t really pay attention to that stuff, to be honest. I just work as hard as I can to get better everyday. My goal is to make it to the big leagues and bring home a world championship to the New York Mets and their fans. I’m making strides everyday to work hard and accomplish that goal.
Baron: Discuss your transition from high school to pro ball. What are the immediate differences and challenges you noticed in the Gulf Coast League last year?
Smith: The competition is much better than high school, even in rookie ball, which is the lowest level of the minor leagues. That required quite an adjustment, but the grind of playing everyday was tough as well and something I definitely had to adjust to.
Baron: How did you learn to manage that fatigue from the longer season and playing day games under the hot sun in Florida?
Smith: It was all about being mentally strong and being sure to get the proper rest I needed. Those were the keys to helping me manage the elements.
Baron: Can you describe what went on at the fitness camp in Michigan, with Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and others? What were the goals and what was the take away from the experience?
Smith: Attending that nutrition camp at Barwis taught me how to properly train and diet in order to maximize my offseason workouts and prepare for the challenges of a long season, which we discussed earlier. I stayed focused on what I learned so that I can be successful in 2014. I learned how to properly train my body. While training with the pros and players at the big-league level, I learned what to expect as I advance through the minor league system.
Baron: Do you model your swing after anyone in particular?
Smith: Being a student of the game, I studied several successful hitters and took bits and pieces from them and created something of my own. I wouldn’t say I mimicked anyone directly, but I certainly learned and followed some of the best from watching games as I was growing up.
Baron: What are your current strengths and weaknesses, in terms of pitch recognition?
Smith: I can hit a fastball. I need to learn how to recognize good change-ups better, and lay off of them when they’re outside of my hitting zone.
Baron: Do you feel comfortable facing left-handed pitching?
Baron: Looking ahead to 2014, how do you take your experiences and lessons learned from your first professional season in 2013 and productively apply that to 2014, wherever you land?
Smith: The grind of playing everyday was my biggest challenge last year. However, I feel I’ve prepared myself more for this upcoming season thanks to my offseason workouts in Michigan and working both with the premier training staff at Barwis and players in the big leagues.
Baron: Defense is important, especially at Citi Field, discuss your strengths and what it is you need to work on.
Smith: I take pride in my defense more than my offense. Right now, it’s important I improve my footwork around the bag, and something I intend to focus on this season.
Baron: You’ve embraced Twitter and Instagram. You appear to have a very good handle on how to manage those platforms, and you do a great job reaching out to your followers. We’ve also learned about you and your family through those mediums.
Smith: I definitely love my fans, and recognize how important they are to me and the game. I try to keep them updated on what I’m doing and how my family is as well. They appreciate me and it’s my way of returning the favor. You can follow me on Twitter, @therealsmith22 and on Instagram, dominicsmith22.