The Los Angeles Dodgers’ catching depth was tested last week when Austin Barnes suffered a strained left groin and required a stint on the 10-day injured list. As a corresponding move, the club promoted one of its top prospects in Will Smith for the first time in his career.
Smith made his MLB debut on May 28 against the New York Mets and picked up two hits, including a double, in four at-bats. Just three games later, he enjoyed the finest moment of his professional career, hitting a walk-off home run to propel the Dodgers to victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
While Smith has impressed in the early going, his first stint at the Major League level could be nearing its conclusion. Barnes has felt considerably better in recent days and completed a two-game Minor League rehab assignment with High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Although Barnes and Smith bring positional versatility, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts shot down the possibility of the team carrying three catchers, per SportsNet LA:
“I don’t think so. Potential starters, we’re going to see a lot more right-handed arms, so to have Beaty, whether it’s to start or have him off the bench (makes sense). And also, probably most important, is to get Will regular at-bats. He was a September call-up in Triple-A last year and he performed well. Off to a great start this year. … For him to get an opportunity with this time, to play well and get his feet wet at the big league love, I think is a great think. So yeah, I don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense to carry three catchers.”
As Roberts notes, it is important that Smith continues receiving regular at-bats to help with his progression. With Barnes and Martin combining to share time behind the plate for L.A., Smith’s best opportunity for consistent playing time would appear to be in Oklahoma City.
While it is disappointing to be sent back down after experiencing the Majors for the first time, Smith can take solace in the fact that he will almost certainly rejoin the Dodgers at some point this season, whether it’s a little later down the road or when rosters expand in September.