The New York Mets entered the 2017 season confident in highly rated prospect Dominic Smith’s ability to develop into a franchise first baseman. Just nine months after Smith’s major league debut, Peter Alonso, a first baseman at the Double-A level, has played his way into a real competition for that role.
Dominic Smith, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, spent his first five seasons in the minor leagues excelling at the plate, hitting for a batting average over .300 in all but one season and consistently posting an outstanding on-base percentage. He quickly moved through the Mets’ farm system, reaching Triple-A Las Vegas in 2017 and becoming the second overall prospect in the Mets’ system behind shortshop Amed Rosario.
After the Mets traded first baseman Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline last season, the team called up Smith to give him some experience in the majors before what figured to be his first full season with the major league club in 2018. Instead, Smith struggled mightily, hitting just .198 with a .262 on-base percentage across 49 games, and even his nine home runs weren’t enough to raise serious concerns about his ability to hit in the majors.
Peter Alonso, a second-round pick in the 2016 draft, has enjoyed an even faster rise through the Mets’ farm system, reaching Double-A after less than one full season in the minors. Alonso hit .289 with 18 home runs in 2017 and has been even better to open the 2018 season, posting a .355 batting average with a .466 on-base percentage and nine home runs in just 34 games.
As Alonso continues to impress and excel at Double-A Binghamton, the Mets are having a tough time with committing to Smith as the team’s top option at first base for the long-term future. Smith displayed poor discipline in arriving late to the team facility for a Spring Training game, lost the competition for the starting job to aging veteran Adrian Gonzalez, and has hit a mediocre .278 at Triple-A with just two home runs, all of which have opened the door for Alonso to surpass Smith as the higher-rated prospect.
The only cause of concern in Alonso’s game is his subpar fielding, as his .981 career fielding percentage is far worse than Smith’s .991 career fielding percentage. Still, with how effective Alonso has been at the plate, the Mets will likely be willing to overlook his poor fielding ability in an effort to see if his offensive success can translate to the major league level.
Smith has already had an opportunity, albeit extremely brief, to prove that he deserves to be the team’s top prospect at first base, spending three days with the Mets with right fielder Jay Bruce on paternity leave. He registered just one plate appearance, in which he struck out, and after being sent back down to Triple-A, it is unclear when, if ever, Smith will get another chance with the major league club.
The situation at first base could shape up to be similar to that which the Mets had in 2013, with Duda and Ike Davis splitting time at first base before Duda won the starting job to open the 2014 season. For now, though, Peter Alonso is doing all he can to assert his claim to the job and avoid any competition altogether.
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