Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Welcome to the Blue, Will Smith!

Another top prospect has joined the Dodgers roster. As you know, Austin Barnes was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain, so the Dodgers called up one of their top catching prospects, Will Smith -- the Prince of Louisville, KY (his birthplace). Per a Dodgers Press release:
Smith, 24, will have his contract selected for the first time in professional career and his next appearance will be his Major League debut. The backstop played in 38 games for Oklahoma City, batting .290 (40-for-138) with eight homers and 28 RBI. Smith was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Louisville. In four minor league seasons in the Dodger organization, he has a combined to hit .244 (231-for-948) with 43 homers and 154 RBI.
You can follow Will on twitter here: @will_smith30, or Instagram here: will_smith1632. BTW, he will also wear #16 -- Andre Ethier's old number. Best yet, he is slated to make his Major League debut later today, via a tweet from Dodger Insider.
As you can imagine, he is very excited. Per Rowan Kavner at Dodger Insider:
“The last 12, 24 hours have been awesome,” Smith said. “Soak it in a little bit. A little anxious to get here and kind of get rolling, but here now and looking forward to being a part of it.”
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be in this situation,” Smith said. “It’s finally come, and I’m happy to be here.”
As for what he can do for the Blue. Will Smith is a highly regarded and well-rounded backstop who is heralded for his defensive play. As for his bat, he is starting to look like a legit power threat -- having hit 20 homers last season and eight so far this year. Hopefully that translates on the Major League level. Here is a scouting report, via MLB Prspect Report, that ranks him as our fifth best in the system:
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50
One of four Atlantic Coast Conference catchers selected within the first 43 picks in the 2016 Draft, Smith signed out of Louisville for $1,722,500 as the 32nd overall choice. The first backstop taken in the first round by the Dodgers since Paul Konerko in 1993, Smith has missed time with a broken right hand in 2017 and a bone bruise in his left thumb in '18. His .890 OPS would have topped the Double-A Texas League in '18 if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, though he otherwise batted .222/.334/.365 in his first three pro seasons. 
Smith has outstanding athleticism for a catcher and it translates into quality defense behind the plate. His average to solid arm strength plays as plus because he has quick footwork. With his soft hands and agility, he receives and frames well, and he also has shown he's a capable third baseman and passable second baseman. 
Los Angeles has had Smith add loft to his right-handed swing, and he has shown more power than he did at Louisville while seeing his strikeout rate soar from 10 percent in college to 24 percent in his first three years as a pro. He probably won't produce much in the way of batting average, but he could provide 15-20 homers per season along with a healthy amount of walks. He also has solid speed and can steal an occasional base.
Below are links to other stories about Will Smith I thought worth checking out:
The second experience I had with Will Smith was witnessing him throwing the ball down to second base. Quick footwork and an ultra-quick release caused some wide-eyed double-takes aimed at stopwatches in the dugout at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. Times ranged as low as 1.73 and few were higher than the upper-1.8’s. Smith’s athleticism and throwing ability behind the plate was immediately evident to the excited player development staff on hand.
  • Ken Gurnick at MLB.com -- "Dodgers prospect Will Smith up; Barnes on IL."
“There’s going to be some nerves, the family’s coming in from Kentucky, but he’s going to go out and compete,” Roberts said of Smith, whose promotion was considered when Martin hurt his back earlier in the season, when the club instead called up veteran Rocky Gale.
“Will’s been around our guys the last few years. Don’t let that baby face, clean-shaven fool you. This guy’s as tough as they come. Has a great way about him.”
In celebration of Will's call-up I made the above two fantasy custom Baseball cards of him.

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