Slick-fielding first baseman Dominic Smith earned the Florida State League’s Player of the Year honor in 2015. Having graduated to Double-A Binghamton this season, he continued to take positive steps, including representing the Mets along with Amed Rosario and Dilson Herrera in the Futures Game.
Smith, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2013 out of high school in Los Angeles, is hitting .301 with 14 homers and 88 RBIs in 468 at-bats with the B-Mets as the season winds down. Binghamton, which recently clinched its first losing season since 2012, wraps up play Monday.
In 27 games in August, Smith is hitting .374/.462/.535. Only Brandon Nimmo (1.145) has a higher OPS than Smith (.997) for the month among Mets farmhands.
“Being Player of the Year last year was a huge honor,” Smith said. “We had a ton of talented players in that league. A bunch of those players went on and played in this league and are doing really well. I definitely think I built on last year and just try to continuously improve every year.”
Smith entered this season with only 10 professional homers in 1,090 at-bats, but the feeling always had been the power numbers would improve as he matured. He turned 21 in June, and he’s started to show a propensity for the long ball.
“The Mets have always just preached to me: Grind out a hit. Grind out a hit. Grind out a hit,” Smith said. “They always said power is the last tool to develop. So I think if I can consistently make hard contact and put the ball in play a lot, my power numbers will continue to improve as I get older and stronger.”
Because he was drafted in 2013, Smith does not need to be added to the 40-man roster this winter. And because he has not yet been exposed to Triple-A Las Vegas, he likely is ticketed for the Pacific Coast League to open 2017. Still, considering Lucas Duda’s uncertain status due to a stress fracture in his lower back, it seems probable that Smith will make his major league debut at some point next season.
Asked what he wants to polish before reaching the majors, Smith said: “I just really want to stay consistent, continuously make hard contact and polish up my strike zone -- not chase as many bad pitches.”
As for the Futures Game, Smith started at first base and went 0-for-4 with an RBI for the U.S. squad, which lost 11-3 at Petco Park in San Diego.
“Being in the Futures Game was so surreal,” Smith said. “You’re in a big-league stadium, a big-league city, and you have 40,000 people in the stands. I just took a moment to look around and say, ‘Wow. This is why I worked so hard -- for this moment right here.’ I really enjoyed myself. I played on the field with some of the best minor leaguers in the world, and a bunch of those guys are taking the next step.”
Smith had played in big-league stadiums before, including at Dodger Stadium, when he pitched in the championship game for his high school team. He also played at Minute Maid Park in Houston during Team USA trials. Those could not rival the Futures Game experience, though.
“I played in a few big-league parks, but for it to be packed like that, and with the competition on the field, it was awesome,” Smith said.
Average: Brandon Nimmo, Vegas, .351; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, .347; Gavin Cecchini, Vegas, .330; Ricardo Cespedes, Kingsport, .327; Carlos Sanchez, GCL Mets, .321; Amed Rosario, Binghamton, .316; Phillip Evans, Binghamton, .314; Reed Gamache, Kingsport, .302; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, .301.
Homers: Johnny Monell, Vegas, 19; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 19; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 14; Dilson Herrera, Vegas, 13; Marc Krauss, Vegas, 13.
RBIs: David Thompson, St. Lucie, 92; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 88; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 85; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, 81; Johnny Monell, Vegas, 72.
Steals: Champ Stuart, Binghamton, 38; Patrick Biondi, St. Lucie, 26; Jacob Zanon, Brooklyn, 20; J.C. Rodriguez, Columbia, 18; Roger Bernadina, Vegas, 17.
ERA: Harol Gonzalez, Brooklyn, 1.57; P.J. Conlon, St. Lucie, 1.71; Sixto Torres, Kingsport, 2.43; Ricky Knapp, Binghamton, 2.56; Merandy Gonzalez, Brooklyn, 3.03; Kevin Canelon, Columbia, 3.56; Gabriel Llanes, Brooklyn, 3.62; Chris Flexen, St. Lucie, 3.70; Jordan Humphreys, Kingsport, 3.76; Gabriel Ynoa, Vegas, 3.97.
Wins: Ricky Knapp, Binghamton, 13; Gabriel Ynoa, Vegas, 12; P.J. Conlon, St. Lucie, 11; Casey Delgado, St. Lucie, 11; Tyler Pill, Binghamton, 10.
Saves: Corey Taylor, St. Lucie, 19; Alex Palsha, St. Lucie, 18; Paul Sewald, Vegas, 17; David Roseboom, Binghamton, 14; Joseph Zanghi, Brooklyn, 8.
Strikeouts: Joe Shaw, Columbia, 134; Tyler Pill, Binghamton, 127; Chase Ingram, Columbia, 126; Kevin Canelon, Columbia, 112; Ricky Knapp, Binghamton, 110.
With nowhere to turn on the East Coast, the Mets extended their player-development agreement with Las Vegas through the 2018 season. “Anytime your Triple-A team is across the country, it’s tough to get players here,” Terry Collins said. “The only thing that’s good about it is there are enough flights out of Vegas late at night. They are the red-eyes, but they still get them here the next day. That situation is what it is. I don’t have anything else to say except we hope those flights keep going.”
With minor-league seasons concluding, the Mets have a shot at one playoff team. St. Lucie (36-28) leads Jupiter (36-29) by a half-game in the Florida State League South second-half standings. St. Lucie will have to earn its berth. After playing a doubleheader on Wednesday at Charlotte, St. Lucie faces Jupiter in the final four games of the season -- Thursday through Monday. If the teams finish even in the standings, Jupiter gets the tiebreaker because it would have the better head-to-head record in the second half. St. Lucie, which last appeared in the postseason in 2012, has not missed the playoffs in four consecutive years in the franchise’s 29-year existence.
Gavin Cecchini, who has exclusively played shortstop during his professional career, is headed to the Arizona Fall League and will get some exposure to second base.
Mets farmhands Champ Stuart and Blake Taylor will represent Great Britain and Tyler Herron and Josh Zeid will represent Israel in a World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament at Brooklyn’s MCU Park Sept. 22-25. Ex-Mets Ike Davis and Josh Satin also will play for Israel. Brazil and Pakistan round out the four-team tournament. Ty Kelly had been listed as a participant with Israel, but he instead is expected to be joining the Mets when rosters expand Thursday.
Brooklyn right-hander Harol Gonzalez has a league-leading 81 strikeouts in 74⅓ innings, along with a league-leading 1.57 ERA. The strikeout total is 15 shy of matching the Cyclones’ single-season record, set by Brad Holt in 2008. Gonzalez has a shot. He pitches on Wednesday. Gonzalez then is lined up to piggyback Justin Dunn in Monday’s season finale, after the first-round pick logs the opening three innings.
Right-hander Ricky Knapp, an eighth-round pick in 2013 out of Florida Gulf Coast University, earned Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honor.
Binghamton infielder Phillip Evans is hitting .328, which is two points shy of Portland’s Aneury Tavarez for the Eastern League batting title. Evans has another obstacle, too. He has 358 plate appearances since joining the B-Mets. He needs 25 plate appearances in the final six games to qualify for the leaderboard. Any amount he is shy of the required 383 PAs will be counted as hitless at-bats toward batting-crown consideration. In Triple-A, Nimmo (.351) has a four-point lead over teammate T.J. Rivera (.347) for the Pacific Coast League batting crown.
Corey Oswalt returned from a shoulder ailment and retired all four batters he faced for St. Lucie last Thursday. Oswalt had been sidelined since mid-June. A lengthy rain delay cut short the 22-year-old right-hander’s return.
“Farm Report” appears on Wednesdays during the regular season. This is the final 2016 installment. Thanks for reading.