For most of the offseason, the New York Mets have acted like the first base job was Pete Alonso’s to lose. General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has sung Alonso’s praises all winter, indicating how he will head north with the team if he is the best option the Mets have. Injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie seem to have boosted Alonso’s odds, but he is still in a dogfight for his job with the guy who used to be the Mets’ future at first, Dominic Smith.
After getting bounced around between first base and left field last season, Smith appeared to be the forgotten man in the organization. The Mets brought him to camp to compete, but Smith has done more than that, leading the team in hits while batting .500 in exhibition games. Smith has also demonstrated his excellent defense at first base, making it hard for the Mets to ignore how well he has been playing.
A big difference for Smith has been treatment for sleep apnea, which can impact one’s ability to breathe while sleeping. Smith has begun using a mask at night to deal with the condition, Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News reports, and he admits his improved sleep has helped his eye at the plate. While talking to the press, Smith admitted that he would perceive 95 mile per hour fastballs as high as 103, which would throw off his timing for everything.
The Mets are clearly impressed by Smith’s spring, with manager Mickey Callaway raving about him during an interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Monday. With it looking unlikely Frazier or Lowrie will be ready to go on Opening Day, Smith may force the Mets to take him north if he keeps up his hot hitting. The Mets should be prioritizing defense behind their pitching staff, and Smith is light years better defensively than either Alonso or J.D. Davis. For the one-time top prospect, a good night’s sleep is all it takes to unlock the potential that made Smith the Mets’ first baseman of the future as recently as 2017.