Dodgers Farm-Hand Fridays: Breaking Down Will Smith

Every Friday we will be doing a profile and analysis of a farmhand on our team. We will look at their background, the kinds of future projections scouts generally have about them, associated risk with them booming or busting, and then our personal take on what they will most likely become as a ball player. We will do one a week up until pitchers and catchers report, and will be counting down our top ten prospects (more or less who I see to be our top ten).

Today we are covering our #9 prospect, Will Smith.

The Basics

  • Name: Will Smith
  • DOB/Age: March 28, 1995 – 22 years old
  • Height/Weight: 6’0″/192lbs
  • Home State/Country: Kentucky
  • Highest Level Reached: AA
  • On the 40-Man Roster: No
  • ETA: Earliest would likely be 2020 as a backup

Other Notable Rankings

  • Baseball America: #9
  • Baseball Prospectus: N/A
  • MLB.com: #8
  • TrueBlueLA: #10
  • Dodgers Digest: #9 (mid-season)

Risk Level
(1-10, with 1 being very low, and 10 being very high)
2, maybe even 1. Now let’s get something straight, Smith’s floor is really high. However, his ceiling isn’t particularly high. The likelihood of him fulfilling his potential is pretty good, even if he isn’t going to be the next Mike Piazza. He is a very safe, very low risk prospect.

The Past
Will Smith is the athletic catcher drafted out of Louisville in Round 1 (pick 32) of the 2016 draft. Born and raised in Louisville, Smith is often compared to the Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes because of his discerning batter’s eye and athletic ability.

While there were, and still are, some questions about his overall offensive potential as a catcher, there are zero concerns about his defensive abilities as a catcher. Scouts have long loved his receiving abilities, and rave about his arm. He is quick for a catcher, takes quite a few walks, and has a little pop. As stated above, the scouting report on him reads very similar to Barnes, right down to the fact that Smith also has seen time at 2B and 3B in the minors.

The Present
So what has he brought to the table? Well as stated, his calling card is his defense. He threw out 42% of base stealers in 2016, and an even more impressive 48% would be base stealers in 2017. His triple slash so far hasn’t been terribly impressive (.238/.357/.393), it definitely would be passable for a backup catcher with his glove-work skills. Unfortunately, he broke his hand in July of this year, so his 2017 season was cut short shortly after getting the call to AA.

It is getting more interesting as he hit an extremely impressive .371/.454/.565 during the Arizona Fall League. It will be curious to see if his offensive game can take a step forward in 2018 at AA. Which is where we can expect him to start.

The Future
What can we expect from someone like Smith in the future? Honestly, best case scenario is that he would end up on a very similar path that Austin Barnes has. Putting up solid contact numbers, taking walks, and having excellent defense, while being versatile enough to play around the infield. This would just add to the spoils and riches the Dodgers already enjoy so much. As I previously stated, his floor is very high: a very solid defensive-minded backup catcher. With the kinds of receiving skills and how great of a throwing arm he has, Smith at the minimum will have a solid career as a backup catcher for many, many years.

Knowing he has a very high floor allows the Dodger brass to comfortably challenge him in his assignments. It would not be stretch to expect him to start in AA, while cracking into AAA by the end of this season. He won’t be eligible to be added to the 40 man roster until after the 2019 season. So unless the Dodgers feel they have a need in 2019 for Smith to appear on the Major League roster (which they likely won’t with at the very least Barnes and Farmer handling catching duties), he won’t see action until 2020.

Then again, Dodgers prospects as of late have been finding ways of forcing the Dodgers to find ways to get them play time in The Show. How Smith can develop offensively may very well impact how soon he could find himself in the Majors.

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Blake Coble

Born and raised in SoCal and bled Blue my whole life. Absolutely love baseball and absolutely love the Boys in Blue! I have a fascination with analyzing the statistics and trends that drive player performance, and I love following our minor league prospects as well! Active duty Air Force currently stationed in Central California! Follow me on Twitter @yarritsblake

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