Dodgers Made the Right Call in Demoting Will Smith to Triple-A

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 01: Will Smith #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a walk-off homerun in the ninth inning of the MLB game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium on June 01, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Phillies 4-3. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 01: Will Smith #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a walk-off homerun in the ninth inning of the MLB game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium on June 01, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Phillies 4-3. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers made a move that wasn’t popular when they officially demoted Will Smith back to Triple-A on Thursday. While it’s not a popular move, it was the right one.

The future had arrived, fresh off hitting his second big league home run in Wednesday’s game, Will Smith had locked down the starting catcher role for the two time defending National League champions. Right?  Not so fast as the Dodgers officially demoted Will Smith back to Oklahoma City on Thursday, paving the way for Austin Barnes to return.

The move may not be very popular with Dodger fans but the move makes total sense.  Austin Barnes was quietly playing very good before his injury posting a slash line of .292/.414/.375 in his last seven games.  While that may feel like a small sample size, and it is, the month of May was very kind to Austin Barnes.

In May, all Barnes did was slug .432 and post an OPS of .816.  That came on the heels of a forgettable April where Austin hit just .154.  One of the biggest improvements for the catcher nicknamed Sam has been his offense against right-handed pitching.  When he first broke out towards the end of 2017, Barnes mashed righties posting an OPS over .900.  Then came 2018 and he struggled after losing the starting catcher role to Yasmani Grandal.

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This season, Austin Barnes has once again hit well against right-handed pitching.  He has a .250/.370/.440 slash line against them and while that may not be a spectacular line, it is very solid.  Given the lack of quality catching in the big leagues lately, there are at least twenty other teams that would gladly sign up for that type of production.  The Dodgers would be one of those teams.

Offense aside, Austin Barnes’ biggest asset to the Dodgers is his defense and pitch framing.  The Dodgers prioritize pitch framing with their catchers and Austin has been one of the top pitch framers over the last few seasons.  He is also athletic behind the plate and while his arm is hit or miss, he does a good job of blocking balls and preventing passed balls. Something Yasmani Grandal lacked towards the end of his Dodger tenure.

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Will Smith’s time will come and there is no doubt he made a short but lasting impression on the Dodgers’ front office.  Should Austin Barnes regress, the club will have no reservations in deciding to call Smith back up to the big leagues.  Russell Martin and Austin Barnes have done an above average job as a catching duo so Will Smith can start every day and keep developing in Triple-A.

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