Can New Nationals First Baseman Dom Smith Bounce Back?

Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The new Washington Nationals' First Baseman will be looking to get his career back on track after a dreadful 2022 campaign with the New York Mets.

Simply put, Dom Smith never lived up to the expectations the New York Mets franchise placed on him. Their former eleventh overall selection in the 2013 draft was let go as a free agent this offseason and inked a one year deal with the Washington Nationals on January 4th. Looking at his numbers, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Mets let him go. In the 2022 season, Smith only played in 58 games due to a rough mixture of injuries and demotions to Syracuse, the Mets Triple-A affiliate. In those 58 games, Smith had a disappointing .194/.276/.284 slashline, leading to a well below average .560 OPS. This was by far the worst season of his 6 year career, but he has shown flashes in the past. 

Dominic Smith
New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies / Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/GettyImages

The peak season of Smith’s career was the shortened 2020 season, a season in which he finished 13th in the NL MVP race. Smith had a career high .993 OPS, barely missing the extremely impressive 1.000 mark. In 50 games, his slashine was .316/.377/.616, with 21 doubles, 10 home runs, and even one triple. It is relatively obvious that one needs to keep the shortened season in mind when analyzing these numbers, but underlying metrics can still be examined to try to pinpoint exactly what went so well for him in 2020 and so poorly afterwards. A number that immediately jumps off the page was his line drive percentage. A strong 35.6 line drive percentage in 2020 fell to 20.2% in 2022. His barrel percentage also took a sharp decline, dropping from 13.3% to 7.1%. These numbers may contribute their fair share to Smith’s struggles at the plate since 2020, but they almost certainly aren’t the only things messing with him. His approach at the plate is something that tended to be cited as a reason for his struggles. When comparing Smith during 2020 to the recent 2022 season, small differences can be seen. Smith was seen swinging with a much tighter stance and swing through the 2022 season, limiting his capabilities as a hitter. He was swinging at pitches that he could not hit, especially with his tight swing. The Nationals will need to unlock that smoother, more free swing that Smith had in 2020 in order for him to re-unlock that success in the major leagues. While that is much easier said than done, simple changes like that can unlock an outstanding hitter for the Nats.

Dominic Smith
New York Mets v Cincinnati Reds / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

I will speak for myself and say I have always been a Dom Smith fan to some degree. Watching his 2020 season was impressive and I honestly thought he found himself and the Mets were gonna have a dangerous first base tandem of Smith and Pete Alonso. As soon as the news came out that Dom Smith was gonna be a FA and not chased by the Mets, I wanted him wearing the Curly W for the 2023 season. Mike Rizzo has made that happen, but it will be up to Darnell Coles and the rest of the Washington Nationals coaching staff to see if they can get 2020 Dom Smith back into action, a change that will most certainly be welcomed in our nation's capital.