If Dominic Smith can carry his performance this spring into the regular season, he’ll complicate an already crowded Mets infield, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be much room for a “Good” Dominic Smith in the Mets infield. Jeff McNeil has already been forced into the green pastures of left field by the team’s positional logjam.
Even with McNeil and Smith not in the equation, Mickey Callaway needs to figure out how to shuffle Jed Lowrie, Robinson Cano, Amed Rosario, Pete Alonso, and Todd Frazier, all players who would justify high usage, into four starting infield spots; that’s not an easy task.
A “Bad” Dominic Smith easily fits into this group. In the case that Smith is “bad”, he can ride the bench and can be called upon to pinch hit when the time comes.
A “Good” Dominic Smith, like the one we’ve seen this spring training, does not. He is wasted on the bench. His offensive production can help the Mets, and he needs to be in the field.
So how does that happen?
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The answer, to start the season off at least, is injuries. Frazier and Lowrie are both expected to miss a chunk of time early on in the campaign, meaning that the starting third base job is, for at least a week or two, pretty open.
Things become interesting here if the Mets are willing to give Smith a chance to play third (he has never played third in a professional game).
Mets newcomer J.D. Davis would certainly be more competent at thirdbase than Smith, but his offensive deficiencies are too large to ignore. Now, if the “good” version of Smith could show a passible glove at the hot corner, he’d be the more desirable choice to take up the position and could find an opening for serious playtime.
Once Lowrie or Frazier return, “Good” Smith would once again be relegated to the bench, but he’d still have had time to prove his aptitude at third – if he can, in fact, play third – and would now be a suitable substitute at both corner infield positions.
If the whole third base thing doesn’t work out, put Dom on the bench and let him play first sometimes. I’m sure he can handle it.
Depending on how Alonso looks against major league pitching it might be advantageous to have him platoon with Smith, who fares much better against right-handed pitchers than southpaws.
In all honesty, it’s kind of tough to project what will happen with this Mets infield durability wise.
Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso are young and limber, but pretty much any other member of the regular infield crew has the potential to go down with an injury at any point.
Frazier has been in and out of the lineup during his short Mets tenure and Lowrie, though durable as of late, has had frequent injury issues throughout his career.
Depending on what combination these injuries happen in – if they happen at all – it wouldn’t be too surprising to see more time open up later in the year at third. If Cano gets injured or needs some time off Lowrie would move to second (you wouldn’t want Frazier playing there), and Smith could take on third.
Essentially what this boils down to is: if Dominic Smith is good and wants playing time with the current make-up of the Mets roster, he’ll probably have to learn to play third base as well as first. This would give the Mets Dodgers-level positional flexibility.
There’s always the chance that Pete Alonso can’t adjust to major league pitching and/or is truly abysmal defensively, in which case Smith could see some decent time at first. However, to really insert himself in the lineup, he’ll need to get out of his comfort zone.
He tried this last year by playing in the outfield, but that is now Jeff McNeil’s cross to bear. Either way, in the outfield Smith was “Bad” Dominic Smith.
So, for the rest of spring training keep an eye out for Good Dominic Smith (and an even bigger eye out for “Bad” Dominic Smith).