Dodgers: What Will Smith has to do to start the rest of the way
Will Smith is the most exciting young Dodgers’ catcher since Russell Martin; his current mentor, and teammate.
Will Smith is a homegrown kid that symbolizes the Dodgers’ success at holding onto talented prospects and converting their talent into major league success.
Now, he needs to have the prospect tag to be removed from his name. Will Smith needs to become the clear starting catcher for the Dodgers.
Why? Because he can flat out rake. He’s an exciting young kid who seems ready to grab a hold of any moment, no matter how big. To this point, he’s hit a walk-off homer and on Thursday night, Smith cracked his first big league grand slam to straight-away centerfield on a cold and humid night.
Will’s home run came against right-handed reliever Trey Wingenter, who is known to have an electric fastball. Smith smacked a double later in the night, leading the team to a win on a night in which the rest of the offense stayed relatively quiet.
Thus far this season, in 43 AB’s, Smith has cranked 5 doubles and 6 home runs while hitting .326. He’s an extra-base hitting machine, something that you could not say about any Dodger catcher this season outside of the Fresh Prince.
So how can he secure the role that he seemingly deserves?
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One, he needs to stay healthy. This one is pretty obvious. As long as Smith can hold off the injury bug, he seems to have the offensive tools to outhit even peak Austin Barnes. Keeping injuries at bay for catchers, even young and spry ones, is still difficult.
Pacing Smith for the next few months heading into the playoffs is important, but he should still start at least four games a week because taking him out of his rhythm and routine risks Smith losing his mojo and would make him more than likely unusable come October.
Russell Martin should start against weaker pitching so that Smith continues to have chances to face the type of pitching he’ll be seeing in October. On nights Smith does not start, he should pinch-hit against tough relievers to bolster his experience coming into the game and being thrown straight into the fire, just in case this scenario comes up in the postseason.
Basically, Smith needs to be primed for the postseason, both through resting him sparsely to keep him fresh and through forcing him to rise to the occasion and face the toughest pitching possible.
Worst case, Smith will falter in the coming months and will need to be supplemented or replaced by Austin Barnes, who at least has played on the biggest stages of the game before. But giving Smith a chance to become the everyday catcher is very important to his long-term development. If he is to be the man of the future he needs to be treated like he is the man, starting this August.