Welcome to part five of the annual Dodgers Nation player grades and season reviews, this time for the 2022 season. Up next in the series is L.A.’s cleanup hitter, Will Smith. Check out Trea Turner in part one, Freddie Freeman in part two, Mookie Betts in part three, and Gavin Lux in part four.
You wanna hear something that’s both true and misleading? Will Smith had the worst season of his career in 2022. It’s true, you can look it up! Smith’s 120 OPS+ was the worst of his four years in the big leagues. Oh, he also might have had the best season of his career, with a 4.2 bWAR that surpassed anything he had done before.
“It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons.” — A Tale of Two Smittys
Even though Smith’s offense didn’t quite measure up to his previous seasons, he made up for it with more volume (his 137 games played and 578 plate appearances were both career highs) and better defense (although his FanGraphs WAR took a hit because he got a lot of at-bats as a DH, which affects the defensive value). And it’s worth noting that even a 120 OPS+ (or 127 wRC+, if you prefer) is outstanding for a catcher, as Smith solidified his status as one of the best catchers in the game as a second-team All-MLB selection.
Fan Vote Results
Dodger fans took to Twitter to give Smith a grade for his 2022 season in Los Angeles. Here are the results:
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) November 10, 2022
Of the 1,630 fans who voted, 53.7% gave him a B, while 38% awarded him with an A. Just 0.8% of fans gave him an F, while 7.5% gave him a C. Overall, it’s a pretty solid report card from the fans who appreciated his contributions to the record-setting 111-win regular season.
Dodgers Nation Take
Smith had his struggles at times, and his 9.7% walk rate was the lowest since his rookie year in 2019. But he batted cleanup as the starting catcher on the best team in baseball — it’s hard to be too disappointed in that, right?
The only things keeping Smith from scoring an A were his relative struggles at the plate and his .489 OPS in L.A.’s NLDS loss to the Padres. Other than that, it was an outstanding season in which he locked down his status as the second-best catcher in baseball behind JT Realmuto.
There’s also some reason for hope, as his struggles mean he could be even better in 2023. Smith is still young — he’ll turn 28 in March — and he figures to have at least a couple more elite years behind the plate before Los Angeles starts figuring out where to put him to make room for Diego Cartaya.
Smith earned a B in 2022, but he’s been an A every other year, and he likely will be again in 2023.
As we said, Smith is the guy at catcher at least until Cartaya is ready. He has three more years in Dodger blue before he’s eligible for free agency. Beyond 2025, things are a little murky, but few teams have as much clarity on their catcher situation for even the three years Los Angeles does.
Could 2023 be the year Smith passes Realmuto to become the undisputed Best Catcher in Baseball? We wouldn’t bet against it.
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