Dodgers: Will Smith just the latest record setting rookie for LA
In the Dodgers’ bashing of the Miami Marlins Tuesday evening, Will Smith became the latest Dodgers’ rookie to set a record.
When you think of Dodgers’ franchise history, even just in Los Angeles, there have been some pretty impressive rookies. In the early 90s, there was Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, and Raul Mondesi who all won NL Rookie of the Year and were power-hitting rookies. Mike Piazza hit 35 home runs which were a Dodger rookie record until Cody Bellinger came along.
Cody Bellinger then etched his name into the Dodgers’ rookie record books hitting 39 home runs as a rookie which also set a National League record. Beyond Bellinger, there are still Walker Buehler, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and most recently Dustin May who have all had impressive performances in their rookie seasons. Alex Verdugo was supposed to be the big rookie in 2019 for the Dodgers but now that is Will Smith.
Will Smith has done something in his first season that even Cody Bellinger couldn’t accomplish which was hitting nine home runs in his first 23 games, a Dodgers’ franchise record. In addition to becoming the quickest to nine home runs, Smith also has 24 RBI’s in 23 games which is yet another Dodgers’ record through 23 games. Not too bad for a rookie who was not supposed to be ready until next season.
It makes you wonder what type of numbers the Dodgers’ rookie catcher could’ve put up if LA had given up on Austin Barnes sooner. The NL rookie class is very impressive this year with Pete Alonso and Fernando Tatis Jr. the heavy favorites to come away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. While another NL ROY trophy would’ve been cool for the Dodgers, they have their sights set on bigger trophies.
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Will Smith has transformed the Dodgers both offensively and defensively. Although defense was supposed to be the one reason Barnes kept starting, Austin threw out just 22% of potential base stealers while Smith has thrown out 27% of would-be base stealers. Will also has just one passed ball so far and has taken control of the pitching staff.
Then there is the biggest difference between the two which is offensive production. Barnes had become a near-automatic out at the bottom of the order while Will Smith has hit as high as third in the order. There are truly no holes in the Dodgers’ lineup now that Will Smith is the everyday catcher. Smith is having a Buster Posey like effect on the Dodgers’ already loaded offense.
The Dodgers have gotten next to nothing offensively from their catchers over the last two World Series runs. Yasmani Grandal was awful and Austin Barnes had a hot streak at the end of 2017 but came crashing down as the playoffs progressed. Smith completes the lineup as has the Dodgers looking like World Series favorites.
It would be pretty tough for any team to match the kind of players the Dodgers’ farm system has produced lately. Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, and now it’s Will Smith. Maybe Smith will end his rookie season with something his fellow teammates could not obtain in their rookie years, a World Series ring.