Will Smith has already proven he is among the best players at his position despite being only 26 years old, but the Los Angeles Dodgers catcher isn’t done improving.
Since his MLB debut on May 28, 2019, Smith ranks first in wRC+ (135) and wOBA (.373), second in on-base percentage (.365) and slugging (.527), and fourth in batting average (.262) and home runs (48) among catchers with at least 800 plate appearances.
He has also provided positive value on defense, ranking in the 66th percentile of framing in 2021 and seventh in defensive runs above average since his debut.
While he has all the makings of a superstar catcher, Smith is still trying to learn how to best handle a pitching staff that has had so many stars on it, he said on the “Unfinished with Anderson Miller” podcast:
“Still trying to learn a lot of that. Still would say I’m not great at it. I feel decent at it, but I think that’s just something that comes with time. I think it’s having tough conversations. In the middle of the game if I see something, I’m going to go out there and we’re going to talk about it.
“Having the confidence to do that, but it’s also gaining the trust of the pitchers to listen to my opinion, idea, or whatever we need to try. But it’s also listening to theirs. I’m going to lean on Kersh, going to lean on Scherzer, because they’ve been there for so long. Why would I not? But it’s also being able to say what I think.”
It does seem Smith has made strides as a catcher and earned the trust of his veteran pitchers since his debut.
While it has been no secret Clayton Kershaw preferred pitching to Austin Barnes, the left-hander has developed a strong comfort level with Smith.
“Will’s great. I have no problem throwing to Will,” Kershaw said after a victory against the Texas Rangers earlier this year. “And I obviously have no problem throwing to Barnesy too. Barnesy is the man and I love throwing to Barnesy. It’s a good problem to have.
“I’ve just worked with Barnesy so long, but I think having the ability to throw to Will and have confidence in that will give Doc some options moving forward. If there’s anything that pops up, like Barnesy having an ankle thing, it gives us some options, which is good.”
Smith balances routine and flexibility
As Smith continues to learn more about life as a Major Leaguer every season, he has also discovered the importance of having a routine.
However, Smith also doesn’t want his routine to control everything he does as he finds the right balance of being open to changes but also keeping some consistency.
The 2020 World Series champion is now entering his third full season as the Dodgers catcher and should continue to improve as one of their best players.
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