When Russell Martin was put on the Injured List the Dodgers recalled Rocky Gale instead of Will Smith. The plan, according to Dave Roberts, was to play Austin Barnes almost every game except start Gale when there was a day game after a night game. The plan was executed against the Cardinals in a loss on April 11 with Gale going 0-4 with three strikeouts and an error. Given the original plan to have Barnes catch 3 of every 5 games and Martin catch 2 of every 5, this is a significant deviancy that could have some negative impacts later in the season.
Burning Out Barnes
I guess since the Dodgers burned out Yasmani Grandal the last four seasons they will now burn out Barnes? The 3 of 5 game plan for Barnes is perfect and I wish they’d done that with Grandal last season. Baseball is a very hard game and it is hardest on catchers. Last season they went with Grandal so much because Barnes was not right. By the time the last part of the season and the post-season rolled around Grandal was bad. Nobody really knows if there is a true cause and effect for Grandal’s play in the post-season (he had some personal issues also in 2017) but why take a chance with Barnes? The Dodgers play for the post-season so why not play Barnes just 3 of 5 while Martin is out.
Austin Barnes is off to an excellent start in 2019 and is showing that 2018 was a fluke and not 2017. To have a well rested catcher in the pennant stretch and the post-season would be excellent. As we all saw in 2015, 2016 and 2018 a burned out catcher is not of much use. The Dodgers need to do something different to help Barnes stay fresh as they don’t know how long Russell Martin will be out. The injury Martin has seems similar to the one he had in Spring Training which cost him around two weeks.
Bring Up Will Smith
In our look at the Dodgers’ catching prospects Smith, according to former Quakes manager Drew Saylor, has a lot of great defensive skills. He did struggle during his AAA call up late last year, but has started off the 2019 season well. Smith is also 24 years old and he is the next guy up. He’s a better hitter and defender than Gale right now. When Gale started against the Cardinals, Walker Buehler was the pitcher. Smith had a lot more experience catching Buehler and maybe Walker does better with Will behind the plate.
Having Smith take over the 2 of 5 games part of the plan makes a lot of sense. Barnes stays relatively rested and the Dodgers see what Smith can do. I know the Dodgers probably don’t want to bring him up just to have to use an option to send him back to AAA when Martin comes back. He still would have options for both 2020 and 2021. If he still needs to be optioned back to AAA at age 27 in the year 2022 then he’s not very good in the first place.
Will Smith is a better player than Rocky Gale, period. The offensive potential is in favor of Smith and he already has the defensive edge. We already spoke about the minor league options issue so that isn’t an excuse. Getting Smith some experience now would be invaluable to him and keeping Barnes fresh is invaluable to the Dodgers. I’d like to see Smith catching at Dodger Stadium this Sunday against the Brewers.
Do you have any reason they should stand pat with Rocky Gale? Do you think Will Smith is a better option? Let’s hear it in the comments below.