The Los Angeles Dodgers are 50 games into the 2023 season and hold a slight edge over the Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the National League West Division.
The high-spending San Diego Padres are languishing beneath the San Francisco Giants, and Dodgers fans have to feel pretty good about where their team is sitting, especially considering the numerous injuries LA has suffered this season.
Thankfully, a few players have exceeded expectations early on and have helped the Dodgers emerge as the division leaders about 30% into the campaign. But there has also been a handful of players who've held this team back. Who are two Dodgers that have exceeded expectations through 50 games and two who've fallen short?
Will Smith has exceeded expectations for the Dodgers
Now, there will be those throughout the fanbase who claim they saw this coming a mile away. And that's fair. After all, one could make the argument that Will Smith is the best hitting catcher in the National League outside J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies.
But Smith is having a career year and is doing so with one of the Dodgers top prospects breathing down his neck. LA fans are enamored with Diego Cartaya, but Smith's performance through the first 50 games of 2023 should put to bed any ideas of rushing the 21-year-old backstop to the big leagues.
Smith is hitting nearly .300, has a slugging percentage of over .500, and trails only perennial All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman for the team lead in OPS. Smith is playing at an All-Star level himself so far this season and likely deserves his first nod.
Smith is beginning to put it all together. The former first-round pick has always been viewed as bat-first, and he's certainly brought the lumber this season, but his defense has also seen a big improvement. Smith is playing at the same level he was during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and was a key piece of that squad that took home a title.