Batter’s Box: Agent Smith
Being stuck behind the guy who is having the best rookie season in Mets’ history, let alone of the best offensive seasons of any player in Mets’ history, must be tough. Once word got around last year about Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith knew his days with the Mets were numbered. He had made some appearances in the majors, so he was a bit of a step ahead but he never performed exceptionally well. In 2018, he played 56 games and put up an 84 wRC+. He made a lot of mediocre contact and struck out over 30% of the time while walking only 2.7% of the time. Up comes Alonso, who starts crushing the ball everywhere and what’s a Dominic Smith to do? Well, he’s been proving himself through his pinch hit appearances and his starts when Alonso gets the day off. Through May he had a few appearances in the outfield as he was just starting to force the Mets’ hands to get him in the lineup. By the end of May, he was slashing .362/.471/.534 in 70 plate appearances. Alonso, on the other hand, had 231 plate appearances by the end of May. The Mets had to find a way to get Smith in the lineup.
From June on he has been making a decent amount of starts in left field. And over that time he’s still hitting decently well with a .255/.307/.538 slash line with a 120 wRC+. After a hot finish in June he has slowed down a bit in July. However, the past few games have been stellar including yesterday’s 3-5, R, HR, 4 RBI which included a 433 foot home run to the power alley in San Fran. Smith proved himself early on this season drastically improving his plate discipline, swinging at less pitches out of the zone and making more contact overall. He drastically improved his walk and K rates, while slugging the ball. He’s now learning to play the outfield so the Mets can have the bat in the lineup. With the trade deadline coming up, there’s a possibility Smith could get moved but I have not seen many rumblings. As long as he has a full time roster spot, there are some incredible improvements he’s made that makes him worth a second glance.
Let’s see who else survived the heat wave to produce some great performances at the plate.
Javy Baez (2B/3B/SS, Chicago Cubs)—3-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. I was a big detractor of Baez keeping up his excellent hitting. He swings at too many pitches out of the zone while also swinging and missing too much. Yet he’s still raking like last year. The only thing he hasn’t kept going is his stolen base numbers. He continues to never walk and strike out a bit too much. More importantly, however, he continues to barrel the ball with the best of them.
Todd Frazier (1B/OF, New York Mets)—2-4, 3 R, HR, 3B, RBI, BB. Frazier had a great thing going back in June, not striking out, walking more, and making much better contact; good for a .547 SLG but a .451 xSLG. July has not been as friendly to Frazier. He has remembered how to strike out, but he’s still hitting the ball hard and lining the ball more than he has all season. The contact has still been good but if he continues to have no discipline at the plate, then it’ll be much more difficult to replicate his fantastic June.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. I would not have expected Vlad Jr. to be 70 games into his career and have a sub-100 wRC+. He waltzed through every level of the minors last season and finally made it up to the bigs, but there is always going to be more to learn at age 20. There have been a few spurts of brilliance from Vlad but nothing crazy beyond his spectacular derby performance. Over the past month he still has an 84 wRC+ with only two homers. A lot of his struggles are coming from handling breaking balls. Thrown about a third of the time his way, breaking balls are his least productive pitch to face with a batting average below .200, while other pitches he faces have close to a .300 average. It’s a learning curve and he’ll eventually figure it out. He has the talent.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI. He took advantage of Orioles pitching yesterday, knocking two out of the park. Bradley has not had as exciting a year as some people had hoped, but he’s turned it on this last month. Since June 21st, he’s slashing .291/.378/.512 but with out much in the counting stat department, except for yesterday. In July, he specifically has picked things up with a 50% hard hit rate, much closer to last season. His expected stats have also been growing month by month and leveled out in July with a strong June stats. A good chunk of this improvement could be his decreased ground ball rate and increased line drive rate.
Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—2-4, 3 R, HR, 3B, 2 RBI, BB. It’s more of the same for this guy, who is killing it so far in July, improving upon an already fantastic season. He is walking a whole bunch more going from a BB% of 3.7% in June to an 11.3% rate in July. Additionally, he’s hitting the ball harder and less on the ground. He’s seems to keep making the necessary adjustments to stay on top of his game and keep improving.
Ramón Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. Daniel Port wrote up on Laureano near the end of June. The Athletic seemed to finally be putting things back together after a rough start to the season. How has he fared since publishing on June 26th? He’s simply on fire. He has a 238 wRC+ with eight homers and three steals. Additionally, he has five straight multi-hit games with eight extra base hits.
Brian McCann (C, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. I feel McCann may have to give up the rights to being the McCann with James McCann’s season. However, Brian is still having a solid season himself. He won’t post a sufficient amount of at bats though. He’s hitting the ball much harder than last while being more disciplined at the plate. If only he could get more at bats.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)—2-4, R, BB, 2 SB. Would you be surprised if I told you that Acuna already has a 20/20 season? Well, surprise! With the two steals last night, Acuna pushed through the 20 stolen base barrier to be the second 20/20 guy this year (with Yelich being the first).
Anthony Santander (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—4-5, 2 R, HR, 3B, RBI. He’s back again! I love when a non-all star caliber player pops up a few times in a row in the Batter’s Box. Santander knocked another dinger, this time 110 MPH off the bat for over 420 feet. If he keeps up these types of hits, he’ll be something to check out but as I said yesterday, he’s another sub-par outfielder.
Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. Sano has been quietly solid for the past month. A 155 wRC+ since June 21st? Seven home runs and a .623 slugging? He’s still striking out 33.7% of the time. His hard hit percentage is 55.8% on the year. If he makes contact he’ll crush it.
(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)