Baseball isn’t played on paper, but in the offseason, the “on-paper” projections are all we have. This is the third installment in our series looking at the projections for key members of the 2023 Dodgers. We’ve done Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman; now it’s time to take a look at Will Smith.
Here are the expected stat lines for Smith from three projection systems: RotoChamps, Steamer, and Marcels (in the format of AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI R).
RotoChamps: .256/.347/.473 25 86 71
Steamer: .252/.342/.471 26 82 74
Marcels: .260/.349/.461 22 78 68
That’s quite a consensus, with OPS projections ranging all the way from .810 to .820. This is the first time we’ve seen RotoChamps and Steamer match up pretty well with Marcels. Smith’s overall .256 batting average is slightly below his career mark of .261 and lower than he’s had in any season since his rookie year, but he’s been at .258 and .260 the last two years, so it’s not out of line.
The on-base percentages are where I get hung up a little bit — they’re in line with Smith’s .343 mark from last year, but his career OBP is .356 and he’s been as high as .401. I’d definitely expect Smith’s OBP in 2023 to be at least .355, and probably higher.
The power numbers are hard to guess, because Smith hits the ball hard but isn’t a prototypical power hitter. If he hits the 24 homers these projections average out to, I think the Dodgers would be happy with that production — he’s hit 25 and 24 the last two years.
The two big questions for Smith are how the banning of the shift will affect him and how the presence of JD Martinez will affect him. The shift is kind of the same question for everyone, although it will manifest differently for different hitters. Smith has a nice line-drive swing, and with more holes in the infield, he might go for more of the line-drive approach, which would bump up his batting average but possible deflate his power numbers.
Martinez is a different question. He has been almost exclusively a designated hitter the last several years, and he’ll likely play there most of the time in 2023, too. But last year, LA manager Dave Roberts used the DH spot to give Smith an occasional break while keeping his bat in the lineup, with 18.6% of his plate appearances coming as the DH. Will they be able to employ that same strategy this year? Doing so might mean time in the outfield for Martinez, and I’m not sure they’re ready for that.
All the projection systems agree that Smith will post an OPS over .800. For a catcher, that’s outstanding. If he can outperform the projections and approach .850, he might be the best-hitting catcher in baseball.
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