“We want to get a look at him beyond just a typical September callup,” Alderson said. “With Bruce going to Cleveland, that’s not a direct replacement, but Bruce did play some first base. As the number of veteran players — potential free agents — is reduced, we create more playing time.”
The organization’s first-round Draft pick in 2013, Smith was hitting .330 with 16 home runs and 34 doubles in 114 games at Triple-A Las Vegas. He will slot in as the Mets’ everyday first baseman, replacing the club’s current tandem of Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker. The Mets dealt a fourth first-base option, Bruce, to the Indians in a waiver trade late Wednesday night.
Considered a slick defensive first baseman with Gold Glove Award potential, Smith has shown increased power the past two seasons, slugging 30 home runs over 244 games. He has not hit a homer in August, however, batting .176 over his final nine games with Las Vegas.
“He hasn’t been on a tear,” Alderson said. “It’s not like he’s hit .500 the last week or 10 days. But he’s continued to play well defensively and offensively. We think the time is right. This gives him a little chance to play in Philadelphia before he goes to the Subway Series.”
That, more than anything, explains why the Mets traded Bruce to the Indians for Ryder Ryan, a 22-year-old reliever unranked amongst Cleveland’s Top 30 prospects. While the Mets like Ryan’s upside and believe he is better than his 4.79 ERA at Class A Lake County suggests, they mostly wanted to clear Bruce — a pending free agent — off the roster to make room for Smith.
When asked if the Mets might have interest in negotiating with Bruce after the season, Alderson demurred, lauding the outfielder’s work over his year-plus with the Mets. For now, Alderson said, the Mets are focused on in-house development with an eye toward next season.
“We have made no secret that it’s important for us going into 2018 to take a look at as many of our young players, and players under control for 2018, as possible,” Alderson said. “There were a lot of discussions prior to the Trade Deadline, the non-waiver Deadline. And conversations continued after the Deadline. From our standpoint, it’s about giving as many players as possible a good look going into 2018.”
Key among them is Smith, who will become the ninth Compton Academy alumnus to reach the Majors, joining the likes of Vince Velasquez, Aaron Hicks, Khris Davis and others. A Gardena, Calif. native, Smith took full advantage of his membership at the first Urban Youth Academy, most notably through his participation in the RBI program, and as an attendee at two Breakthrough Series events.
“I’m excited for him,” Mets outfielder Michael Conforto said. “Awesome guy, great teammate. I know he’s been waiting a long time for it.”
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Hitting .330 with 16 homers and a .905 OPS across 500 plate appearances in Triple-A this season, Smith has demonstrated his readiness for big league action, especially with the Mets’ recent trades of Lucas Duda and Bruce. Though he lacks the type of power standard-league owners crave from the first-base position, the 22-year-old Smith is worth adding in 15-team formats given his potential to post a helpful batting average as a regular in the Mets’ lineup down the stretch.