2019 Dodgers Top 100 Prospects: No. 6, C/3B Will Smith

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

We’re almost to the Top 5 of this Top 100 prospect countdown. Next up could be the Dodgers’ catcher of the future. Or third baseman. We’ll see how he develops.

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Previously

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I’ve included Future Value (FV) grades and risks for the Top 50 prospects. For example, if a guy gets a “50 low,” he has a really good chance to be an average player at his position. If a guy gets a “55 high,” there’s a good chance he won’t reach that ceiling, but the potential is there. I tend to give higher future values because I take ceiling into account. The grades are 20-80 (50 is average), and the risks are as follows:

  • Low: Players who are usually older, have debuted, are relievers and/or have higher floors than ceilings
  • Medium: Players who are a mix of younger and older, usually have higher floors
  • High: Players who are usually younger with potential, but also question marks
  • Extreme: Players who are younger with star potential, but a ton of question marks

This is to show what value a player might provide at the MLB level. The higher the risk, the less likely a player will reach that ceiling.

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Editor’s Note: I am not a scout (#notascout). I am an amateur when it comes to evaluating players. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information I observe/obtain to the people. Notes and comments are based on personal observation, talking to sources, reading scouting reports and watching video. For future entries in this series: All ratings in the charts below are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is roughly average, 80 is elite and nearly unattainable and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.

Other notes: “Role” is a realistic future role (slightly optimistic in some cases). Age is the 2019 season age for the player (June 30 is the cutoff date).

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Rating Key

80 – Elite
70-75 – Plus-plus
60-65 – Plus
55 – Above-average
50 – Average
45 – Fringe-average
40 – Below-average
30-35 – Poor
20-25 – Very Poor

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7. Will Smith

DOB: 3/28/95 Age: 24 Height: 6’0 Weight: 201 Bats: Right Throws: Right Position: C/3B
Tools Now Future
Hit 40 45
Power 50 55
Speed 55 50
Defense 60 65
Arm 55 60
FV/Risk 55 High
Type of hitter: Power, fly ball, lots of swing and miss

Acquired: 1st round (No. 32 overall) of 2016 MLB Draft, University of Louisville, $1.755 million signing bonus

Physical description: Solidly built, strong hands, athletic frame

Strengths: Developing power, among best defensive catching prospects, loud contact, defensive versatility

Weaknesses: Prone to strikeouts, has given up contact for power, struggled in Triple-A

Key statistics: .233/.322/.455, 10.6 BB%, 27.6 K%, .222 ISO

Summary: When the Dodgers drafted Smith, it was thought that he was going to be Austin Barnes 2.0. He has been anything but, as the 24-year-old has developed into one of the best power-hitting catchers in the minors. He hit a career-high 20 home runs in 2018 and has seen his isolated power increase in each of his three professional seasons. With a rise in power has come a rise in strikeout rate. Luckily for him, he walks a fair amount in an attempt to offset the strikeouts. At the plate, he profiles more like 2018 Gary Sanchez than a more contact-oriented guy like Barnes.

Smith has gone from a guy who has good bat-to-ball skills to a guy who will sell out for power. His setup is pretty straightforward and his swing compact, but his load and leg kick are quite noticeable — and that’s how he generates power. He uncoils and his swing path produces a lot of fly balls. He has above-average bat speed, thanks to some quick hands. Most of his home runs come to the pull side, but he has shown the ability to go over the fence the other way on occasion.

Defensively, Smith is one of the minor’s best behind the plate. He uses his athleticism to move quickly behind the plate and block pitches in the dirt. He has a strong throwing arm with pop times in the sub-1.9 second area. And, like with every Dodger catcher, he is adept at framing. He’s the best in the system at it and it will help him once he gets to the next level. At third base, he has enough range and quickness to handle the position, as well as plenty of arm. If he had to play there full-time, he could handle it. And with his change in hitting approach, he might have the power to do it, if the Dodgers think they have better options at catcher in the future. He’s an above-average runner now. That will degrade over time, but for now, he’s an asset on the base paths.

Smith could be a first-division starter with his powerful approach at the plate and his plus-defense behind it. At worst, he’s a backup and/or platoon half, which could be dependent on how well he hits for average (and walks) in the majors. He’ll begin the season in Triple-A Oklahoma City with a chance to make his MLB debut later this summer. He isn’t on the 40-man roster, but will need to be protected this winter.

Spray Charts

Will Smith heatmap 2019
Will Smith hit heatmap 2018

Videos

2018 Ranking: 7
2019 Location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
ETA: 2019

Next Up: Prospect No. 5

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.