Cody Bellinger broke multiple franchise and MLB records after joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in April 2017 and going on to be unanimously voted National League Rookie of the Year. Though Bellinger is now an MVP candidate, Will Smith has put him on the wrong end of rewriting history.
Less than two weeks ago, the rookie catcher reached 19 RBI in his first 14 career Major League games, breaking Bellinger’s franchise record of 17. That was also the fourth-most in MLB history, trailing Jim Greengrass of the Cincinnati Reds in 1952 (21), Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves in 2019 (20) and Mandy Brooks of the Chicago Cubs in 1925 (20).
On Tuesday night, Smith reached nine home runs and 26 RBI behind his first career multi-homer game. That set new Dodgers franchise records for most within the first 23 games with the club, which Bellinger previously set in 2017 with eight and 23, respectively.
Beyond Smith getting off to a remarkable start in his career, Bellinger lauded him for consistently putting together strong at-bats, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“Probably just the quality at-bats every at-bat. He’s hot, but it’s good at-bat after good at-bat. It’s not just first-pitch-swinging homers. It’s unbelievable at-bats. It’s been fun to watch.”
Smith enters play Wednesday batting .324/.375/.817 with eight doubles to go along with the aforementioned nine home runs and 26 RBI. He has matched the nine homers Austin Barnes (five) and Russell Martin (four) have combined to hit, and isn’t far from their 14 doubles.
Smith’s emergence at the plate earned him not only another promotion from Triple-A Oklahoma City shortly after the All-Star break, but a role as the Dodgers’ primary catcher. Barnes’ ongoing offensive woes led to a demotion, though he’s expected to return in September.
As he’s continued to impress on a near nightly basis, Smith has maintained his same even-keeled demeanor and approach. It surprisingly earned him a comparison to what was seen from Yasiel Puig upon making his MLB debut in 2013.
“I am cautious to make this comparison, but Puig was like this when he came up,” Roberts recently said, laughing at his own remark. “That’s the only time I’ll compare Will Smith and Yasiel Puig.
“When he comes up, guys want to watch him. That expectation and anticipation when he steps up, and then the delivery. It’s good to see.”