Over the course of three years, Dominic Smith’s role with the New York Mets has been as vacillating as his team’s inconsistent performances over the past two seasons.
The 25-year-old has gone from the organization’s top prospect at first base to minor-league project, to a bench option behind Pete Alonso, and now to the Mets’ next-best-hope as an everyday designated hitter — or fill-in left fielder or first baseman.
That’s quite an unpredictable ride.
But Smith has not only fastened his seatbelt while keeping his hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times, he’s developed into a prominent voice in the clubhouse who is poised to take advantage of the next whacky, semi-improbable opportunity to carve his niche within the club.
Yoenis Cespedes’ shocking season opt-out on Sunday opened the door for a promotion from top bat off the bench to every-day DH for Smith.
Such a golden opportunity comes with a bit of luck, but it hasn’t deviated Smith’s focus from the overarching goal of team success. It’s the kind of humble, ‘we-first’ approach that has endeared himself to countless Mets fans.
“All we care about is wins. Wins matter, especially in the short season… playing time, stuff like that, it’s out of our control,” he said. ” When we do get in there and we can contribute, that’s a part of our control.”
First-year manager Luis Rojas didn’t have the easy task of finding ways to get the left-hander’s bat in the lineup while Cespedes was around, but Smith still managed to take advantage of his limited chances despite sporadic opportunities.
Appearing in just four of the Mets’ first nine games with nine at-bats, Smith’s average was nothing to write home about at .222, but he was still able to string together some quality at-bats as evidenced by a .889 OPS.
Following the Cespedes decision on Sunday, Smith has started three of the last four games, posting a .385 on-base percentage even though he’s collected just two hits in his previous nine at-bats.
“Dom has confidence. That’s why he’s been able to embrace the role,” Rojas said. “If that role ends and he’s playing every day, that’s going to be easy.”
It’s all apart of the process for the team’s most vocal cheerleader, who isn’t feeling any sort of way upon his return status to a regular in the Mets’ lineup.
“I don’t want to say that it’s a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “We know as a team we have a job to do each day and that’s to win ballgames. If I’m starting or in a role I was in before, [my approach] hasn’t changed.”
Despite appearing in just eight of the Mets’ first 13 games, he is tied for the team lead with seven RBI, including two during Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals.
“He’s always in a good mood, always ready, always doing what he needs to do to be ready for the game,” Rojas said after the win. “He’s going to see more playing time now.”
His production was just enough to quiet the concerns regarding the Mets’ inabilities to get timely hits with runners in scoring position while leading the league in runners left on-base.
“In those spots, you can’t focus on that kind of stuff because if you’re thinking of that kind of stuff, it’s going to get you away from your gameplan,” he said.
Even in the short season, the Mets’ slow offensive start is not a concern for Smith, who continues to keep his head up just as he did over the last three uncertain seasons.
“We’re ranked in the top-five in hitting. You just can’t have it all,” Smith said. “We’re going to get guys in, we’re going to score runs. Our offense is talented.”
“It’s just a matter of time before we put everything together.”