For weeks now, the talk in all of the tabloids in response to the Mets struggles have surrounded two young, heralded prospects playing in Las Vegas. Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith have Mets fans craving for their youthful energy and their unlimited potential. In the Bronx, Aaron Judge has emerged this season and has helped carry the Yankees to their impressive 25-16 record. His hot start has sparked talk to call-up Rosario and Smith to come save the New York Mets.
Of the two, Rosario is the more highly touted. The 21 year-old was signed internationally in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic, and he has seen steady improvements in his game every year since. Ranked as the fifth overall prospect by Baseball America prior to the season, Rosario has torn up the Pacific Coast League in 2017, hitting .360 with a .935 OPS and eight stolen bases to boot. While his bat is certainly impressive, his defensive skills project best at the major league level. He has a plus arm, and has previously been recognized as the best defensive shortstop in both the Eastern League and the Florida State League. His overall athleticism leaves every reason to believe he will be a future star in New York.
Dominic Smith has seen a similar career track, yet hardly the same. Smith was the Mets first round draft choice in 2013 out of Junipero Serra High School in California. Immediately upon his professional debut, Smith displayed a serious ability to hit for average. The concern came with his lack of power, and how his offense did not project comparably to big league first basemen. In 2016, Smith quieted the doubters over 130 games at Double A Binghamton. Smith mashed 14 home runs in 484 at-bats and posted a career high .457 slugging percentage. His flyball rate rose from 31.5 in 2015 to 34.7. This offseason, he worked tirelessly to get into better physical shape. From last September to Spring Training, Smith shredded 24 pounds to get leaner. He already has five homers in Las Vegas this year while also maintaining a .320 average. Like Rosario, Smith also has advanced defensive ability, displaying great footwork around first base.
Rosario and Smith have dominated the minors for years now, and they really have nothing left to prove. Both prospects are worthy of the call, but only Smith should be in Queens right now. Don’t get me wrong; Rosario could certainly make a positive impact for the Mets right away. But based on the current roster, the Mets would be better off calling up Smith now and Rosario later.
Many people will point to Jose Reyes and his unproductive season as a means to call-up Amed Rosario. But as of late, Reyes has been turning his season around. The veteran is eight for his last twenty-four, with two three hit games in the past week. While his .205 batting clip is nothing to be impressed by, Reyes was hitting .095 just one month ago, so his improvements do show. Even if Reyes fails to continue his hot hitting, Asdrubal Cabrera is due back over the next week or two. Calling up Rosario now would likely result in him lingering on the bench with a start here and there, which is not what he needs. Rosario is better suited to take the reigns at shortstop next season, once Reyes and Cabrera’s contracts have expired.
First base, on the other hand, has been an area of concern for the Mets in 2017. Lucas Duda has been on the Disabled List for a majority of the season with back problems, and his numbers when he has been healthy don’t impress. Duda is only batting .206 through 22 games. The real troublesome statistic lies in his splits versus righties and lefties, although it probably isn’t what you might expect. Shockingly, Duda is hitting .400 against left-handed pitchers, albeit in just ten at-bats. He has two home runs and a 1.600 OPS versus southpaws. Against right-handers, Duda is hitting just .172 with a .662 OPS in 58 at-bats. Jay Bruce slotted in at first base while Duda was hurt, but he is more valuable to the team in right field. Wilmer Flores has earned an opportunity to start everyday based on his scorching month of May. In 45 at-bats, Flores is hitting at a .378 clip with an OPS well over .900. Like Duda, however, Flores’ splits raise concerns. He crushes lefties, but he’s hitting just .241 against right-handed pitching. Even more concerning is his amoebic .599 OPS against righties. Flores should get his chance at third base though, not first, despite his defensive limitations.
Forget Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores. Dominic Smith is the solution at first base for the New York Mets. Smith can slot into the five-hole in the lineup and immediately produce, no matter the handedness of the pitcher. Smith dominates right-handers, hitting .343. Although his average dips to .250 against lefties, his OPS is still .813, and he actually has a higher slugging percentage against southpaws. Duda and Flores are defensive liabilities at best; Smith is sure-handed and a quality receiver at first. The Mets have taken their time bringing Smith through the minor leagues, and he has dominated every level thus far. As he approaches his 22nd birthday in June, Dominic Smith can give the Mets and their fans the gift of a dependable and productive first baseman.
Sandy Alderson keeps addressing the success of Rosario and Smith, yet he continues to deny them the chance to prove they have what it takes to help the Mets win now. Pitching may be the Mets primary concern, but a youthful presence in the lineup and the clubhouse could provide the spark a struggling team needs to turn things around. Aaron Judge has changed the culture and attitude in the Bronx, and Dominic Smith can do the same in Flushing.