After a slow first week to the season in the frigid Northeast, 2013 first-round pick Dominic Smith heated up with Double-A Binghamton. Throw out a 1-for-14 opening three games and Smith is hitting .310 with four homers and 30 RBIs in 129 at-bats this season in the Eastern League.
Smith, a first baseman, particularly has credited recent work with B-Mets hitting coach Luis Natera for his success. The 20-year-old Smith had been having difficulty with breaking balls down in the zone, and even some low fastballs.
"I’d start my swing -- I’m low, low, low -- and then at the contact point, my front hip would fly out, my backside would come up from underneath," Smith explained. "Everything is coming out of my swing. Normally a perfect baseball swing, you’ll see the back knee driving down, and then you’ll see them hitting against a firm front side. That’s what we’ve basically been working on at the contact point. My contact point had been higher.
"I know some pitches, breaking balls low, and even some fastballs that I missed because I’m coming up at the contact point. We’ve basically been doing drills to help me stay on my legs and stay down on the ball. It’s definitely helped me the last few weeks. I’m able to drive pitches down in the zone better now."
Smith entered his fourth professional season with only 10 homers in 1,090 at-bats. His power has started to awaken as he matures, though. It also has helped to get away from a big ballpark in Savannah, as well as graduating from the Florida State League.
"I think the first few seasons I was trying to hold my own and learn my swing, learn the pitching and stuff like that," Smith said. "I think now I’ve got a pretty good idea about how pitchers are trying to pitch me and a good idea about my swing. And I think just playing in better hitting environments, the numbers are going to be better than the last few years."
Shortly after getting drafted 11th overall out of high school in Los Angeles in 2013, Smith relocated with his family to near the Mets’ Port St. Lucie, Florida, complex. He lives with his mother, two older siblings and a nephew.
"I was born in Los Angeles, California, in the inner city. It was not the best of places to live," Smith said. "My family pretty much sacrificed everything they could to get me in this position -- taking me to tournaments, giving me their last dime and stuff like that. And so after I got drafted -- I live with my mom -- and she never owned a house and we didn’t live in the best of places. So we decided there’s no better opportunity in our lives to move -- especially to Port St. Lucie, where I can focus on my career and not get distracted with all of my friends out there in California -- so it can help me get to the big leagues. I think it was the best decision that I made so far in my young life."
Average: Ty Kelly, Vegas, .413; Wuilmer Becerra, St. Lucie, .372; Kevin Taylor, St. Lucie, .360; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, .341; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, .315; Vinny Siena, Columbia, .311; Matt Oberste, Binghamton, .310; Tomas Nido, St. Lucie, .305; Dilson Herrera, Vegas, .303; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, .297.
Homers: Dilson Herrera, Vegas, 8; Marc Krauss, Vegas, 7; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 5.
RBIs: David Thompson, Columbia, 38; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, 34; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 30; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, 26; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 26.
Steals: Champ Stuart, St. Lucie, 12; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, 10; Roger Bernadina, Vegas, 9; J.C. Rodriguez, Columbia, 6; Dilson Herrera, Vegas, 5.
ERA: P.J. Conlon, Columbia, 1.04; Gabriel Ynoa, Vegas, 2.09; Robert Gsellman, Binghamton, 2.21; Ricky Knapp, St. Lucie, 2.36; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 2.48; Andrew Barbosa, Binghamton, 2.76; Chase Ingram, Columbia, 3.00; Casey Delgado, Binghamton, 3.16; Joe Shaw, Columbia, 3.21; Kevin Canelon, Columbia, 3.27.
Wins: P.J. Conlon, Columbia, 6; Casey Delgado, Binghamton, 5; Gabriel Ynoa, Vegas, 5; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 4.
Saves: Paul Sewald, Vegas, 5; Alex Palsha, Columbia 5; Corey Taylor, St. Lucie, 3.
Strikeouts: Chase Ingram, Columbia, 38; Corey Oswalt, St. Lucie, 38; Andrew Barbosa, Binghamton, 37.
Rafael Montero was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week after logging 11 2/3 scoreless innings during starts at Sacramento and Oklahoma City. Montero is 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in six starts for Las Vegas this season, but he has averaged 91 pitches over slightly less than five innings an outing.
Dilson Herrera is hitting .348 with eight homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games in May with Vegas.
One lesson from Tuesday’s call-up of Matt Reynolds: It pays to already be a member of the 40-man roster. Fellow infielders Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera were passed over in part because they would have needed to be added. The 27-year-old Kelly, who split last season in the Cardinals and Blue Jays organizations, leads all of professional baseball with a .413 average (43-for-104). Rivera, a Bronx native who signed with the Mets in 2011 after going undrafted out of Troy University, is hitting .341 (44-for-129) with four homers and 34 RBIs. Rivera’s average ranks ninth in the PCL.
2012 first-round pick Gavin Cecchini has been sidelined since May 6 with Vegas because of a back strain.
The Binghamton Mets will rebrand themselves next season, dropping Mets as their nickname for merchandising and other marketing reasons. The Double-A club announced six finalists for its new name: Bullheads, Gobblers, Rocking Horses, Rumble Ponies, Stud Muffins and Timber Jockeys. The selection will be announced in October.
Robert Gsellman (1-2, 2.21 ERA) landed on the Binghamton disabled list after a start last Thursday with a groin strain.
B-Mets first baseman Matt Oberste, a seventh-round pick in 2013 out of the University of Oklahoma, is hitting .353 with two homers and nine RBIs in May.
Tyler Pill recorded his first career complete game when he logged seven innings on Saturday at Portland. It came in his 76th career start.
First baseman-turned-outfielder Jayce Boyd, who has been sidelined the entire season with continued shoulder issues, is working in extended spring training and should be on a full-season roster shortly. Boyd had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome after the 2013 season.
St. Lucie catcher Tomas Nido threw out three would-be base-stealers in the first four innings on Monday. He now has caught 12 of 17 base-stealers in the 10 games in which he has played in May. For the season, Nido has thrown out 45 percent of base-stealers.
Champ Stuart stole three bases in the opening four innings against Clearwater on Monday. He has now been successful in 12 of 13 attempts this season. The dozen steals are one shy of the Florida State League lead. Stuart also is on an eight-game hitting streak. He has four multi-hit games during that span. Stuart, a Bahamas native, leads St. Lucie with 19 walks, giving him a .349 on-base percentage.
Kevin Taylor's 14-game hitting streak ended Monday with an 0-for-4 game for St. Lucie. He has reached base in 23 of 25 games. Taylor ranks third in the league with a .360 average and first in the league with a .476 on-base percentage. Teammate Wuilmer Becerra leads the FSL with a .372 average.
St. Lucie left-hander Alberto Baldonado was called for an automatic ball for violating the pitch clock on Saturday. The FSL began enforcing the clock in May.
Outfielder Patrick Biondi returned to St. Lucie’s roster Monday. He had been sidelined since late April after injuring a finger on a slide into second base.
Columbia pitchers nearly went through a full turn of a six-man rotation with each starter logging at least seven innings. After Chase Ingram, Joe Shaw, Tyler Badamo, Thomas McIlraith and Kevin Canelon reached that threshold the previous five games, P.J. Conlon fell one out shy on Tuesday. Conlon nonetheless logged 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday to improve to 6-0 with a 1.04 ERA.
Versatile infielder J.C. Rodriguez has reached base safely in 18 straight games. He’s hitting .444 over his past seven games. Rodriguez’s favorite player growing up: ex-Met Roberto Alomar.
Patrick Mazeika is to make his season debut with Columbia on Wednesday. An eighth-round pick out of Stetson last June, Mazeika had been sidelined the entire season with elbow soreness. Mazeika hit .354 last season with Kingsport. He finished one point behind teammate Kevin Kaczmarski for the Appalachian League batting title.
"Farm Report" appears on Wednesdays during the regular season