Dominic Smith has struggled at the plate in the majors, posting a .246/.308/.424 line in 443 games and 1,373 plate appearances in the big leagues so far in his career, but he has put up a .294/.361/.429 line in 679 games 2,895 PAs in the minors.
In 2022, the 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder played just 58 games in the majors, with a .194/.276/.284 line, 10 doubles, 12 walks, and 37 Ks in 152 plate appearances, but he signed a 1-year/$2M deal with Washington this winter, and the 2013 1st Round pick (NYM) is trying to turn things around given a new start, with a different organization after he worked his way up with the New York Mets (who drafted and developed him), but struggled to establish himself in the big leagues for a variety of reasons (including Pete Alonso).
“For me, just getting back to what I do really well,” Smith told reporters when asked what he needs to do to reestablish himself after his deal with the Nationals was announced.
“And that’s consistently make hard contact, and just being in a better position in my legs, which I kind of got away from.
“But towards the middle or end of the year, I felt like I was in a good spot. So, I just wanted to pick up on that, and just continue to control the strike zone and not chase.”
Stat Break: Smith’s Hard% (why it’s important) was a career low 25.3% in 2022, down from a career average of 34.4% and his career-high 37.8% mark in 2020’s breakout campaign. More stats later...
Smith dealt with an ankle injury last season, and roster additions forced him from the lineup and then to the minors eventually, so he’s excited to have a new opportunity, and he’s really focused on sticking to what worked for him as he made his way through the minors.
“I think I’m at my best when I’m just letting the pitcher come to me and not trying to do too much,” he said, “and when they come in the zone, I make them pay for that.
“I think last year I was trying to do a little too much, and I just kind of got back to where I wanted to be towards the middle or end of last year. I just want to keep adding on to that, and just keep doing that for this season.”
Smith’s best season in the majors so far is the 1.4 fWAR 2020 campaign which saw him put up a .316/.377/.616 line, 21 doubles and 10 home runs over 50 games played and 199 PAs in the COVID-shortened season, but in the last two years, he has finished at -1.1 fWAR, with an ugly .233/.298/.345 line in 203 games and 645 PAs.
Has it been a frustrating last two seasons for Smith?
“I don’t want to say they were difficult. I think every year is just a chance to grow a chance to learn, and a chance to really just adapt,” Smith said.
“Obviously I didn’t play up to where everybody wanted me to play up to, but I think in those years I got learn a lot about myself, a lot about how I can just be a better person, a better leader in life, so that’s what I took from those last couple years of being in New York.”
Stat Break: For what it’s worth, his Barrel% in that 2020 season was 13.3%, up from 8.4% in his first year in the majors (2017), 6.3% in 2018, and 7.5% in ‘19, over his first three seasons in the majors, and the last two years it’s been 6.8% (2021) and 7.1% (2022).
His Chase% (26.0 in 2022) was a bit down from his career average (32.2%). His Zone Contact% (84.7%) was a career high as well (up from 81% average in his career).