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Dodgers: Will Smith Call-up Shifts Catching Corps

With the call-up of Will Smith, the Dodgers possess a good problem to have.

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Will Smith #79 of the Los Angeles Dodgers poses during MLB Photo Day at Camelback Ranch- Glendale on February 22, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

With the call-up of Will Smith, the Dodgers will see some major changes in their catching landscape.

Smith being recalled, along with Austin Barnes heading to the Injured List leaves veteran Russell Martin remaining on the roster and performing well.

While Barnes is injured, there is no roster crunch with Smith and Martin simply acting as the team’s two catchers. However, upon the return of Austin Barnes, what happens? If Will Smith is setting the world ablaze with his bat, can they really demote him?

To answer this question, let us first take a look at the numbers of all three catchers:

Austin Barnes

Barnes has been underwhelming this season, but not as much as you might think. He holds a 100 wRC+ and has been worth almost one win this season in 40 games. His groin injury against the Pirates came in the midst of a hot streak for Barnes, as a few weeks prior, he was among the worst hitters in baseball in terms of wRC+. It is not out of the realm of possibility that we see Barnes get traded this season to make room for Will Smith on the active roster for the long haul.

Russell Martin

Martin has been a very pleasant surprise with the bat this season and continues to act as a welcome veteran presence in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Although he has managed just 20 games due to injury, he has been stellar, posting a 123 wRC+ and an .812 OPS.

Although his contract is one that is fairly large, most of it is being paid by the Toronto Blue Jays, so there is no real threat to Martin being traded this season. It would simply make no sense to take him off the roster considering his value on both sides of the ball this season as well as his value in the clubhouse.

Will Smith

Smith is off to a fantastic start in Oklahoma City in 2019, posting a 133 wRC+, marked by a .290/.404/.551 batting line. This season, Smith’s walk rate has jumped 3.4%, all the way up to 15.1% and his strikeout rate has dropped from 24.4% to 21.1%. He has crushed 8 homers and driven in 28 runs.

According to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, Smith possesses a 60-grade arm from behind the plate and a 55-grade glove. He is capable of playing third, as well.

A Good Problem to Have

There are a lot of catchers on this roster and a lot on the verge of a come-up. Rocky Gale has seen time for the Dodgers and most likely has his roster spot in jeopardy. Barnes is most likely not in the future plans of the club with both Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz poised for major playing time in 2020. Russell Martin is off the books after the 2019 season. It is a good problem to have.

Most teams do not have a good catcher on the roster and potentially, the Dodgers could have three this year and three again next year. Something has to be done. Whether by trade or another course of action, Will Smith needs playing time just as Keibert Ruiz will next season and Diego Cartaya will in a few years.

Overall

In my opinion, the Dodgers should trade Austin Barnes in a package for a pitcher (possibly a solid reliever) and run with Smith and Martin, contingent on Smith performing well, which I have no doubt in my mind he will. Come playoff time, Martin and Smith will be a formidable catching tandem.

Written by Daniel Preciado

My name is Daniel Preciado and I am 18 years old. I am a sophomore Sport Analytics major and Cognitive Science and Economics dual minor at Syracuse University. When I am not in New York, I live in Whittier, California --- not too far from Chavez Ravine. I am pretty old-school for being an analytics guy and I will always embrace debate. Also, Chase Utley did absolutely nothing wrong.

4 Comments

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  1. Daniel I agree with you. Now please give me your opinion on who the Dodgers should target. I give you my humble opinion for your comments. One : get right handed bat 1B. Jose Abreu from White Sox’s for some combination of Kelly, Pollock and Edwin Diaz. Second reliever Shane Greene from Detroit for Yimi García, Yadier Álvarez and Estevez should do the deal ? And finally, I hope the Pirates keep loosing so we can pry away Felipe Vasquez for Dennis Santana, Austin Barnes and say Jeren Kendall. Finally, put Stripling as a starter and put Maeda back as a reliever where he belongs and re do his contract accordingly. Thank you.

  2. I would be correct for sure if I said about 100% of the fans here are glad that Smith has been brought up here to Dodgers. But since Dodgers will be facing Matz, a LHP, it is also guaranteed that Joc is sitting to start tonight’s game..

  3. Dniel, correct here and if Barnes is dealt let’s say at the deadline, it should be for an impact reliever for sure, as we saw once again that despite winning 9 to 5 yesterday the BP almost single handedly gave the game away.

  4. Nice article, but I think you should have also considered these tid-bits.
    Martin isn’t hitting in the clutch at all. He hits a ton of ground balls and seems to get his hits when no one is on board. I was very surprised to see his batting average as high as it is.
    Also, did you notice how uncomfortable Kershaw looked pitching to Martin last night? I believe that was the first time Kersh pitched to Martin in a game… Didn’t look good. I think trading Barnes prematurely would be problematic. Better to ride out the season.
    Let’s see how Smith does first and then we can re-evaluate.
    Remember, the Dodgers also have Ruiz in Double A who has a higher ceiling than Smith.

    Thanks.

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