Following the departure of Yasmani Grandal over the offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers addressed his void with a trade that brought back Russell Martin to his original organization.
Martin, with one year remaining on his contract, is expected to be a short-term stopgap to pair with Austin Bares behind home plate for the 2019 season. Though, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts isn’t yet sure who will receive the lion’s share of work between the two.
The Dodgers passed on longer-term options such as J.T. Realmuto and other free agents due to a promising future that awaits at the catcher position. Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith are each highly-regarded and were included in multiple top prospect rankings this offseason.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman recently praised Smith, deeming him a contender for future Gold Glove Awards, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
Friedman on #Dodgers catching prospect Will Smith: "I think he could contend for a Gold Glove defensively. It's just about getting him to that point offensively where there's more consistency that we think is in there."
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) February 13, 2019
As Friedman points out, Smith is widely considered one of the organization’s best defensive catchers. In 2017, he threw out 48 percent of would-be base stealers in 55 games with High-A Rancho Cucamonga while committing only five errors.
After ending his 2018 season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, Smith is expected to begin the upcoming year with the affiliate in what could be his final tune-up before reaching the Majors.
Smith is a prime candidate to receive a Major League promotion in September, and depending on how the Dodgers’ catching tandem plays out, could arrive in Los Angeles even sooner than anticipated.
Smith was called up to the Dodgers last September as an effort to accelerate his learning curve, though he did not appear in any games.