Will Smith: Potentially Finishing Career With Dodgers ‘Means A Lot’

Prior to the domestic season opener, Will Smith and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a 10-year, $140 million contract extension.

Smith was a first round pick (32nd overall) in the 2016 MLB Draft by former Dodgers director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino, now the vice president of baseball operations, and has developed to be one of the more under-the-radar superstars in MLB.

He is in the midst of his sixth season with the Dodgers, first debuting in 2019 after earning a mid-season call-up from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“I’ve loved being here since I got drafted in 2016 and I don’t think I’m the player I would be without being here,” Smith said. “For me to probably finish my career a Dodger, means a lot. I couldn’t be happier or more excited moving forward.”

He split his time pretty evenly between Triple-A and the Dodgers in 2019, with 62 games and 54 games respectively. He took full control of the starting job at catcher the next season and has never looked back since.

The culture surrounding the Dodgers clubhouse and organization has been created and cultivated by the team under manager Dave Roberts. It has given their young players the tools and an environment to learn and develop at the Major League level.

Smith is just one of many the products of that winning culture.

“I think just across the board. From catching, hitting, mechanics, all that stuff, to calling a game and being a leader, to just being a professional,” Smith said. “Being around the teammates I’ve had, a lot of the older teammates I had when coming up as a rookie or even before I got called up, just learning from them.

“They created a winning culture here and I think I’ve kind of thrived off of that.”

The Dodgers’ resume also includes National League Rookie of the Year winners Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger in 2016 and 2017 respectively. A possible three-peat with Walker Buehler in 2018 was foiled with his third place finish behind all-world talents Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto.

Seager has become one of the most dangerous bats in the sport and is a four-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, two-time World Series Champion, and two-time World Series MVP.

Bellinger has had some extreme highs and lows throughout his career, but rounded back into form with a good bounce back year in 2023. It remains to be seen if he can continue his redemption arc, but as it stands right now he is a two-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, Gold Glover, National League MVP, and World Series Champion.

Buehler has dealt with injury issues the past two seasons, with his 2022 season cut short and missing all of 2023.

He has been a frontline caliber starter for most of his career with the Dodgers, and owned a 3.02 ERA in his first 115 games played. His best season came in 2021 where he had a 2.47 ERA, 212 strikeouts, and a 0.97 WHIP in a career high 207.2 innings. He is a two-time All-Star and a World Series Champion.

But despite the success of their farm system, Smith is the only former top prospect who has received a contract extension with the Dodgers, perhaps signifying how highly the organization views him.

Dodgers’ player development not limited to prospects

The Dodgers’ player development factory is not just limited to rookies and young players, but also castoffs and veterans alike. Justin Tuner, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor are some of the best examples of players who were not able to reach their full potential until coming over to the Dodgers.

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