Will Smith has been among the top catchers in baseball since taking on an everyday role for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 2020 season, but recognition outside the organization has often been hard to come by.
That changed this year when Smith was named to the 2023 MLB All-Star Game among the National League reserves. He caught five innings and went 0-for-1 with a walk in the NL’s 3-2 victory that snapped the American League’s nine-game winning streak.
While Smith’s offensive numbers have never been a question, his game calling and managing a pitching staff were areas that needed growth. That became particularly evident to Smith as he was often utilized as the designated hitter en route to the Dodgers winning the 2020 World Series.
Smith said that experienced helped fuel him to improve on some of his perceived weaknesses, via Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:
“That’s all internal motivation,” Smith said this week as he prepared for his first All-Star Game. “It makes you realize that, yeah, I need to get a little better at these aspects of the game. And that’s what I started doing. I started to really learn, when it comes to the game calling and all that. It just takes time.”
Smith’s improvement behind the plate is quantifiable. He now ranks sixth in defensive runs saved at his position, and in 2022, his dWAR of 1.2 was more than previous seasons combined and his 2023 dWAR is on pace to match it again.
While the Dodgers have struggled mightily holding runners and at steal prevention, Smith’s 1.9 pop time to second base is seventh-best in the Majors.
Bobby Miller credits Will Smith
When Dodgers prospect Bobby Miller made his MLB debut against the Atlanta Braves, he gave Smith plenty of credit for navigating a tough lineup.
Miller held the Braves to just one run over five innings and said he never felt a need to shake Smith’s pitch-calling off.
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