Kevin Kaczmarski

How and Why Dominic Smith Became a Left Fielder

Last night, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario collided in the outfield leading to a ball dropping and the go-ahead run scoring. When a gaffe like this happens, many are sent looking to pin blame. As has often happens since he was first called up to the majors, Smith was an easy target.

Before looking to levy the blame on him, it is important to review just how Smith became a left fielder.

Back in 2011, the now defunct Sandy Alderson regime made Brandon Nimmo their first ever draft pick. Since that time, the Mets have drafted and signed just 27 outfield prospects.

The breakdown goes: 2011 (six), 2012 (none), 2013 (three), 2014 (five), 2015 (three), 2016 (three), 2017 (four), 2018 (three).

Putting aside Nimmo and Michael Conforto, the outfielders the Mets have drafted since 2011 have played a combined 35 games at the Major League level.

Last year, Travis Taijeron hit .173/.271/.269, and this year, Kevin Kaczmarski is 0-for-5 with a walk.

Currently, the Las Vegas roster only has one outfielder drafted from the aforementioned draft classes on their roster – Kaczmarski. Kaczmarski is currently battling for playing time with players like Zach Borenstein, Bryce Brentz, Matt den Dekker, and Patrick Kivlehan.

Binghamton had Tim Tebow playing everyday because there really wasn’t a Mets draftee pushing him out of the lineup.

Champ Stuart, the Mets 2013 sixth round pick, is repeating the level, and he is hitting .136/.280/.264. Patrick Biondi, the Mets 2013 ninth round pick, is also repeating the level, and he is hitting .222/.333/.247.

Overall, that’s just three part time outfield draft picks playing in the upper levels of their minor league system. Combine them with Nimmo and Conforto, and that makes just five outfield draft picks playing in Double-A or high from the past eight drafts.

Given how much the Mets drafts have not provided much in terms of outfield depth, the Mets were faced with calling up a Major League has been or never was or to give the shot to Smith. Given how Peter Alonso was nipping at Smith’s heels from Double-A, learning another position did make some sense.

Believe it or not, Smith in the outfield was not as absurd a proposition as it may sound. He entered the year leaner and faster. As noted by Baseball Savant, his sprint speed is better Jose Bautista and Jay Bruce, two players the Mets have felt eminently comfortable in the outfield. When he was drafted, Baseball America noted Smith had a strong arm and was a “fringy defender with below-average speed” in the outfield.

Still, the Mets were forced into that position because of how they handled Smith.

After he struggled last year, they were wise to bring in competition for him in Spring Training in the form of Adrian Gonzalez. Partially due to Smith’s injury in Spring Training, Gonzalez did win the job. However, he played poorly.

In 21 April games, Gonzalez hit .227/.312/.394. After going 3-for-4 with two solo homers in a game at Cincinnati, Gonzalez returned to form hitting just .267/.323/.350 over his next 20 games leading to his eventual release.

With the way Gonzalez was playing, there was a real chance to call-up Smith and give him a shot. The Mets passed, and they instead decided to stick with a guy who was not producing.

When the Mets finally released Gonzalez, they gave Smith three games to prove he could produce at the Major League level. In those three games, he went 4-for-12 with a double, homer, and an RBI. After that three game stretch, Wilmer Flores came off the disabled list, and he was given the first base job.

With Flores being bestowed the first base job, Smith’s great experiment in the outfield truly began. With Smith not playing well in the outfield, he found himself on the bench, and eventually, he would head back to Triple-A. When he was sent back to Triple-A, he was entrenched as the left fielder because Alonso had been called up and given the first base job.

In the end, you have a former first round draft pick and former Top 100 prospect playing out of position because the Mets have failed to give Smith a chance, the team has failed to develop outfield prospects at the upper levels of their minor league system, and the team is more willing to give failing veterans a chance over a younger player who could improve with Major League coaching and playing time.

Overall, that is how you get a promising prospect in the outfield, and that is how you have two young players colliding in the outfield and costing the Mets a game.

Rockies Just Turned Another Double Play

There’s shooting yourself in the foot, and then there is doing what the Mets did against the Rockies today.

Somehow, the Mets grounded into five . . . FIVE! . . . double plays.

Each one of them were brutal.

In the second, after the Rockies turned a 1-0 Mets lead (Todd Frazier first inning solo home run) into a 3-1 Rockies lead, Jose Bautista earned a leadoff walk against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland.

Bautista would be erased when Kevin Plawecki grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

In the third, after Brandon Nimmo hit an RBI single to pull the Mets within 5-2, Frazier would hit into the inning ending 5-4-3 double play.

In the sixth, Michael Conforto led off the inning with a single. He would be immediately erased when Wilmer Flores hit into a 5-4-3 double play.

In the seventh, Jose Reyes, who for some inexplicable reason started a second straight game, was erased on an Amed Rosario 6-4-3 double play.

Speaking of Reyes, he can’t field and doesn’t know how to use sunglasses:

Finally in the eighth, after the Mets pulled themselves to within 6-3 on a Flores sacrifice fly, Devin Mesoraco hit into the inning ending 5-4-3 double play.

You combine all of these double plays with Steven Matz allowing five runs on eight hits and two walks in 5.2 innings, and you have all the makings of a 6-4 loss.

Game Notes: After another poor outing in this game, Paul Sewald was demoted to Triple-A. He is joined by Chris Flexen. In their stead Drew Smith and Kevin Kaczmarski will be called up.

It’s Good That Tim Tebow Was Bad

When Tim Tebow took the batter’s box against reigning American League Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello, we could all guess what was going to happen.  Tebow struck out, and he didn’t look particularly good doing it.  In fact, Tebow didn’t look particularly good in any aspect of the game on Wednesday.  Overall, Tebow was 0-3 with a hit by pitch, two strikeouts, and a GIDP.  The only time he got on base via the hit by pitch, he was doubled off of first.

Simply put, Tebow did not look like he belonged out there.

Most Single A players don’t look like they belong out there either.  That is traditionally why most players in the lower levels of the minor leagues do not play until towards the end of the Spring Training games.  If you put a lower level minors player out there against the Porcellos of the world, they are most likely going to look bad up there.  Heck, major leaguers look bad at the plate against Porcello.  That’s partially why Porcello won the Cy Young Award.

However, with Tebow it’s different.  It’s different because of the attention.  Seriously, who gets a round of applause after they hit into a double play?  It’s different because Tebow has always been a lightning rod.  It’s different because Tebow decided to play baseball after not having played the sport in over a decade and after it was made clear his football career was over. As Terry Collins said, “What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even try.”  (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).

It’s different because some people believe Tebow is taking someone else’s spot.

That last one simply isn’t true.  Minor league systems are full of “organizational guys” who are signed so each team can have enough guys to fill out a roster.  In terms of this Spring, Tebow wasn’t even the first prospect to get into a game.  David Thompson, Blake Tiberi, Luis Carpio, Kevin Kaczmarski, Luis Guillorme, Patrick Biondi, Wuilmer Becerra, Peter Alonso, Arnaldo Berrios, Gene Cone, John Mora, Colby Woodmansee, and Ricardo Cespedes are all Single A players who got into Spring Training games this year before Tebow.  Overall, Tebow’s presence has not prevented anyone from getting into a game that the Mets deem worthy of getting into a game.  Guess what?  There is no way the Mets are going to let Tebow get in the way of another more deserving prospect.  The Mets aren’t dumb.

For one day, Tebow went out there, and he didn’t look good.  He looked all the bit of the 29 year old player who hasn’t played a full season of baseball in over 10 years.  He looked outmatched, and he looked like he lacked the requisite instincts to play the game.  That’s a good thing.  Baseball is hard.  As the late great Jimmy Dugan once said, “The hard… is what makes it great.”

In reality, the only way Tebow could have made a mockery of baseball was if he went out there and went 3-3 with a couple of extra base hits.  Instead, the man struggled like he was supposed to struggle.  Now, like many who have struggled, it is incumbent upon him to dust him off and get better.  Tebow knows this better than anyone saying, “”There are a lot of things I have to play catch-up on.  It’s just, how fast can I catch up?”

If Tebow is willing to put in the work, he just might be able to catch up.  If he does catch up, he moves away from being a sideshow the Mets are profiting from to being a minor leaguer who is looking for his next call-up.

First Half Mets Minor League Offensive Leaders

Currently, MLB and many of their full season affiliates are either at or have already had their All Star Break. At each and every level, the Mets had a minor league hitter named to their level’s All-Star Game. Listed below is a synopsis of the Mets’ organizations leaders at the break:

Class A – Columbia Fireflies

Class A Advanced – St. Lucie Mets

AA – Binghamton Mets

AAA – Las Vegas 51s

Organizational Leaders

  • AVG: T.J. Rivera LV (.348)
  • OBP: Vinny Siena COL & STL (.413)
  • SLG: Travis Taijeron LV (.953)
  • OPS: Travis Taijeron LV (.953)
  • R: Travis Taijeron (61)
  • H: Amed Rosario STL & BNG (107)
  • 2B: Travis Taijeron LV (35)
  • 3B: Amed Rosario STL & BNG (11)
  • HR: Johnny Monell LV (14)
  • RBI: Travis Taijeron LV (69)
  • SB: Champ Stuart STL & BNG (26)

* stats are updated through July 13, 2016

Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsminors.net