Name Will Smith
Selection: First round, pick 32
Top 200 Ranking: NR (not enough info)
What he’s good at right now
Smith is in the midst of a big offensive season at Louisville, hitting .380/.476/.573 for the Cardinals while drawing positive reviews for his defense. Smith is an athletic catcher that can run, and has posted impressive pop times as a catcher.
What he can be good at in the future
The key for Smith will be maintaining his athleticism and hitting as he progresses through the minors. Smith hadn’t hit above .250 before this season, and the hope is some physical maturity will help this development stick. He’s a disciplined hitter that’s hard to strike out, so he just needs gap power to keep posting solid numbers.
What does he need to work on
Smith has hit eight home runs this season, but his size and swing aren’t geared for significant power. Smith’s swing is fairly flat with little load, helping him stay in the zone and be quick to the ball, but not necessarily helping him hit for power.
Smith’s ability as a receiver and athleticism are what should help him climb the organizational ladder. If he holds his offensive game, a plus hit tool would make him a rare breed as a catcher, and the contact rate this year looks promising.
Track record and size. Smith’s value has been soaring in the last few weeks, but he wasn’t necessarily an on-the-radar guy before the season. Smith is a good runner now, but you wonder how catching will affect his athleticism as he ages.
If the hit tool is real, Smith will move very fast. His team is a contender for the College World Series, so he may take a while to sign, but starting the 2017 season in High A isn’t out of the equation, and a 2019 ETA is entirely possible.
Realistic best case scenario
Smith will likely pair with Austin Barnes to give the Dodgers an athletic platoon with plus receiving skills in their prime. If you are a big believer in Smith, you might see Jason Kendall as a comparison, and a peak season of .300+ average, 5-10 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases is possible.
I wish I had a better handle on Smith’s hit tool, but he’s a pop up guy that’s had a huge season with an atypical set of skills for a catcher. This is a pick that I put faith in the guys making the decision ahead of my own judgment, considering I didn’t feel comfortable ranking him in the first place. If the Dodgers are right on his offensive profile and defense, Smith will more than justify this selection. His lack of track record does give me pause though.