Dodgers 2019 Player Reviews: Will Smith
Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith reacts after hitting a grand slam against the San Diego Padres
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2019 season perhaps the biggest weakness on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ roster was the catcher position.

The team let Yasmani Grandal walk in free agency, but with top prospects Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz still expected to be a year away from being big-league ready, L.A. began the 2019 campaign with Austin Barnes and Russell Martin as the two catchers.

Both Barnes and Martin were coming off career-worst offensive seasons, so barring a significant turnaround, the Dodgers weren’t expected to get much production from the catcher position.

The first quarter of the season played out as expected, leaving the Dodgers searching for answers behind the plate. Meanwhile, at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Smith was absolutely tearing the cover off the ball.

There never was a question about Smith’s defense going into the 2019 season as president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said during Spring Training that he believes the former first-round pick was already capable of winning a Gold Glove.

The reason he wasn’t yet expected to make an impact at the Major League level was because of his bat. But when that came around at the highest Minor League level, the Dodgers had no choice but to promote 24-year-old to address their issues at catcher.

Smith came up at the end of May and immediately provided a spark for the Dodgers’ offense, posting a .967 on-base plus slugging percentage in his first six games. He became the victim of a roster crunch and went back and forth between the Majors and OKC for a couple of months.

Meanwhile, both Barnes and Martin continued to struggle at the plate. It was at the end of July that the Dodgers finally made the decision to call Smith up for good, making him their starting catcher and demoting Barnes to OKC for the first time since 2016.

Smith took the opportunity and ran with it, establishing himself as one of the bright young players in all of baseball. In 54 games for the Dodgers he hit .253/.337/.571 with nine doubles, 15 home runs, 42 RBI and 30 runs scored.

That was on top of his fantastic season with OKC in which he slashed .268/.381/.603 with 11 doubles, 20 home runs and 54 RBI over 62 games.

As is the case with a lot of young players, Smith struggled a bit in the month of September, posting a .582 OPS. He then went just 1-for-13 with five strikeouts and three walks in the National League Division Series loss to the Washington Nationals.

2019 highlight

Smith came up with a number of big hits in his short time with the Dodgers, including a pair of walk-off home runs. The first came June 1 against the Philadelphia Phillies, when Smith electrified the Dodger Stadium crowd with a solo shot to left field for his first career big-league home run.

Smith was then a part of history during a series at the end of June against the Colorado Rockies when Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo and he hit walk-off home runs in three consecutive games, marking the first time ever three rookie teammates have done so.

2020 outlook

Some teams have shown interest in Smith on the trade market this offseason, but considering the Dodgers doesn’t really have anyone else capable of being a starting big league catcher, it is highly unlikely that he gets dealt.

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