A franchise that far and away leads the Majors with 18 Rookie of the Year Award winners has certainly seen its share of remarkable performances by a youngster. But as Will Smith added to his legend with a grand slam, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts drew an unlikely comparison.
Not to Corey Seager who ended the franchise’s drought by winning Rookie of the Year in 2016, or the Dodgers’ last recipient in Cody Bellinger (2017). Instead, Smith’s production and ability to keep calm in clutch moments has reminded Roberts of… Yasiel Puig.
“I am cautious to make this comparison, but Puig was like this when he came up,” Roberts said with a laugh. “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.”
When Puig made his MLB debut in June 2013, the Dodgers were spiraling and in need of spark. He provided it behind an electrifying first week that spawned into a dizzying month and jaw-dropping start to his carer.
L.A. ripped off a historic 42-8 stretch that propelled to the first of what’s become six consecutive National League West titles.
Smith hasn’t rescued the Dodgers in the way Puig helped do, but his production has provided a jolt to an already-deep lineup. “He keeps coming up with big hits,” Roberts said.
“It’s just one of those things, right now he’s got clarity in the box. He’s conducting good at-bats, doing a great job of staying in the strike zone, putting the ball in the air and putting the barrel to it. Fortunately for us, guys are on base when he comes up. Can’t say enough about his process, his work, and obviously the performance.”
On Wednesday, Smith became the first player in MLB history during the Modern Era (since 1900) to have three of his first five career home runs come in the ninth inning and give his team a lead.
On Thursday, he reached 19 RBI to break Bellinger’s Dodgers franchise record (17) through 14 games to start a career.
Smith may be unlikely to give the Dodgers another Rookie of the Year winner, but at this rate his value to the club will far outweigh earning that type of hardware.