Q&A With Dominic Smith: His New Stance, New Body And New Goals
It hasn’t quite worked out as planned. Smith has hit just .210/.259/.406 in parts of two seasons with the Mets and now finds himself fighting both veterans and rising first base prospect Pete Alonso to remain a part of the Mets' long-term plans.
Still just 23 years old, Smith has entered camp this spring with a new physique, a new stance and new goals for the type of player he wants to be.
Baseball America spoke with Smith prior to Tuesday’s spring training game against the Tigers to discuss what he learned from his first stints in the major leagues, and what he’s changed as a result.
This conversation has been lightly edited for both length and clarity.
BA: You’ve had a taste of the majors the last two years. What did you take from those experiences that you want to take forward into 2019?
Dominic Smith: You take what you can from both seasons. Each season as different. I feel like I learned so much from the veterans that we had, and I got to watch some of the best players play the game and even be around some of the best players in the game to see what they do on an everyday basis that helped them become successful. One of the things I learned is you’ve got to have a really good routine that you can stick to everyday and just the preparation behind it, the studying and also just learning your swing and really being your own coach. We have some of the greatest coaches in all of baseball, but you still have to know what you’re doing and kind of hold yourself accountable. That’s what I’ve taken from some of the best players in the game over the last few years.
BA: The numbers haven’t been what you wanted them to be those first two seasons. What did you diagnose as the root of that, and what steps have you taken to change that?
Smith: A lot of it was just like mechanically in my swing. You look at a lot of footage and tape over the last two years, I was doing so many things bad at the plate. I mean, even for me to have success in the minors leagues to get to the big leagues, it’s pretty crazy. I really did a lot of studying over the last two years, and I got to watch the best players play a lot. We get to see (Bryce) Harper all the time, last year we got to see Mookie (Betts) and J.D. (Martinez) play, I got to see Goldy (Paul Goldschmidt) a bunch, a lot of really good hitters that I got to watch and you have so much access to video that you can really study. I was just noticing things they were doing that I wasn’t doing. This offseason I really worked hard on making it easier to have success. So I simplified a lot of my swing.”
BA: How so?
Smith: Less moving parts. I’m a little bit taller now because when I was in my legs I would rock back too far and it would get me out on my front foot, and once I’m out on my front foot I’m trying to catch everything out in front and that’s what causing me to chase a lot of pitches. Now, I’m more tall, so I can really sit on that back hip and really reach and read the pitches now. I’m still really young, it’s crazy. You look at some of the greatest players, you look at (Aaron) Judge, you look at (Mike) Trout—their first couple hundred at-bats wasn’t the best, but they’re some of the best players in the game now. So at 23 years old, I feel like I still have a lot of potential and upside and I worked really hard this offseason, so I’m excited to do what I can in spring.
BA: In the past a lot of focus has been on your size. You dropped a lot of weight last year and even more this year. What are you at now?
Smith: Right now I’m around like 216. I wanted to show the Mets, I know they had me a little bit in the outfield last year and I wasn’t the best, but it was my first little stint out there so I wanted to really focus on that. And like I said, over the last couple of years I’ve been paying attention to a lot of the best players and the biggest thing I realized is the best players are some of the best athletes first, and then they’re good baseball players second. I kind of noticed how explosive and strong these guys are and the time of work they put in the weight room, the time of work they put it in the cage, the time of work they put in the film room. I told myself I want to get as strong as I can, as explosive as I can and as fast as I can and then I want to focus on baseball stuff, and I felt like I put myself in a good situation to be a completely different player. I didn’t want to be a baseclogger. I want to be the guy who can go first to third. I see Goldschmidt and (Anthony) Rizzo and (Cody) Bellinger, these guys steal 20 bags a year and play first base. So it’s not just about the power numbers, it’s about the whole game, and I really wanted to make sure I came into the spring and showcased my whole game. Showcase that I’m mobile, I can run around. If you need to put me in the outfield, I can do that. I want to lean more toward the five-tool player as opposed to just two tools or one tool. I’m pretty happy on how I feel. I feel great. It’s probably the happiest I’ve been playing baseball since my first big league camp.
BA: When was the last time you were this light?
Smith: I haven’t been this weight since high school. Senior year I was 195. This is the lowest I’ve been since then. I think I went into the GCL around like 215 and from there it sparked up. Highest I got was 260. Big difference.
BA: In the past you cited cutting out wet burritos as helping you get in better shape. Was there anything you cut out this year?
Smith: It was more working out-based. I do try to keep a low carb, low sugar diet because that’s what really sticks to you. Your diet is going to tell you everything you need to know. And it’s so funny that I eat healthier now if I will go get a burger or go get something that’s unhealthy, in the moment it might taste good, but you feel so bad and sluggish and just bloated. It's just a bad feeling I don’t like to feel.
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BA: With all the offseason moves the Mets made, what were your thoughts knowing it might mean less potential playing time for you in the majors?
Smith: It was mixed emotions a little bit going on, but it made it fun though. It definitely makes you more hungry, kind of lights a little fire under your butt and makes you want to compete everyday in spring, and I’m happy about that. (General manager) Brodie (Van Wagenen) keeps stating he’s going to take the best 25 guys to start the season. I just want to keep putting myself in that position to be one of those top 25 guys, and let the best man win. Like I said, it makes camp way more fun and enjoyable because you’re going out there grinding everyday. In years past you could kind of look at the lineup, look at the roster and you could kinda put the 25 guys in there. You knew those 25 guys were going to be there no matter what you did. This year is different. You play well and you could be right there.
BA: Knowing that, do you have any specific goals for spring training?
Smith: I just want to play my game, and if I play my game I know I’m going to put myself in a good position to make the Mets make a tough decision. I know what I’m capable of doing. I’ve shown the power in the big leagues but not the hit tool. It’s pretty funny, because the power coming up was the problem. Now I just want to showcase the full game. The hit tool, the power, I want to hopefully get out there and steal a couple bases, show them I can run a little bit, just play baseball, play good defense. I take a lot pride in that. If I do all that type of stuff, it’s going to make it hard on the Mets and Brodie to make a decision.