In 2016, the Dodgers drafted catcher Will Smith out of Louisville based on a solid offensive season his junior year, taking him higher than anyone expected with the 32nd overall pick. At the time, he wasn’t seen as a top hitting prospect.
MLB Pipeline described Smith as “one of the better all-around backstops available. He’s a quality defender who has upped his offensive game as a junior.”
“Smith stands out most for his work behind the plate. He has solid arm strength and such a quick transfer that he consistently records pop times of 1.9 seconds or less and opponents rarely try to run on him. He’s a good receiver who has more athleticism and agility than most backstops.
“After batting a combined .235 in his first two years at Louisville, Smith has been one of the Cardinals’ most productive hitters this spring. He has a compact right-handed swing that lends itself to contact and getting on base, if not much power. He has at least average speed and can steal a base on occasion.”
But the Dodgers saw something much more in Smith, as he told MLB Network on Monday.
“It kind of started once the Dodgers drafted me. Got me in their player development. And they basically told me you need more power to play at the big leagues, consistently drive guys in, and I committed to it. They kind of taught me how, put a lot of hard work into it, just kind of learning how to actually really drive the ball up in the air. So, yeah, all that work is kind of paying off now.”
Things have worked out pretty well for Smith, who has posted a 129 OPS+ in his first four seasons in the big leagues. Smith has averaged 33 homers and 104 RBIs per 162 games played, which is quite a bit better than “not much power.”
It’s a testament to L.A.’s player development system, but also to Smith’s hard work and commitment. Pretty much a match made in Blue Heaven.
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