Will Smith has had a rough spring. The Los Angeles Dodgers presumed starting catcher for 2020 owns a .143 BA through nine games. Exhibition games do not always correlate to regular season successes or failures, but could this be a continuation of Smith’s September and October downturn?
- July (15 Plate Appearances) .462/.467/1.154
- 2 HR, 9 RBI, 5 SO
- August (85 PAs) .270/.353/.649
- 8 HR, 19 RBI, 21 SO
- September (67 PAs) .175/.284/.298
- 2 HR, 8 RBI, 17 SO
- Playoffs (16 PAs) .077/.250/.077
- 0 HR, 0 RBI, 5 SO
When do we start to worry about Will Smith?
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— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) March 6, 2020
A small regular season sample size, less than 200 plate appearances, does not provide enough information to predict long term trends for Smith. Neither does a few games in February nor March.
Let’s be honest, his scorching August had Dodger fans dreaming of their own homegrown version of J.T. Realmuto or Gary Sanchez. Smith amassed 15 homers in just 54 games. For added context, Smith finished 49th in at-bats as a catcher, but 16th in homeruns. He had more RBI than Colorado’s Tony Wolters despite the fact that Wolters played in 67 more games. Entertaining, exciting, and completely unsustainable.
Will. Smith. pic.twitter.com/eQtBR1XMhd
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 27, 2019
Smith is not Mike Piazza, nor Jason Phillips.
Smith’s brutal Camelback Ranch numbers are certainly a concern. Smith has looked uneasy in the box to say the least. Maybe his glorious August was a flash in the pan and the contact never returns. Or maybe, Smith is destined to be a slightly above average hitting catcher with 20-25 homers potential and Dodger fans got a little too excited.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 31, 2019
Bottom line, Smith just needs to be good, not great or exceptional for this team to succeed.
Smith provides value by lengthening the lineup more than your average backstop and not providing yet another automatic out in front of the pitcher’s spot.
Don’t judge Smith based on one month of other worldly production for any position. Judge him based upon his peer group. A group that provides as little offense as ever in this era. An era that values pitch framing over plate production.
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As a minor leaguer, Smith profiled as a defensive catcher who needed to develop his offensive skills. In the majors, his receiving constantly come under fire after any loss in 2019. Managing a veteran staff with World Series potential takes time and an offseason. Smith will be much better defensively in 2020.
Austin Barnes serves as the contingency plan should Smith struggle through April and May. Safe to say the 30-year-old Barnes is having the opposite Spring Training experience with his .333/.400/.611 slash line. Also unlike Smith, Barnes has logged 800 PAs in the bigs to the tune of a .229 batting average devoid of power.
Barnes is a known commodity who deserves a couple of starts each week. The Dodgers need to find out if Smith is their everyday catcher for the next few years.