We’ve reached the end of the line in our 2022 Dodgers season reviews. Completing the anchor leg of this relay is Will Smith, whose role in a prolific offense has grown each year.
In all, 111 of Smith’s 130 starts last season came either at cleanup or batting third for a Dodgers team that led the majors in runs scored. He hit .260/.343/.465 with 24 home runs, 26 doubles, and a 127 wRC+, leading all major league catchers with 87 runs batted in. Smith’s bat was so needed that he started 24 times as designated hitter, boosting his playing time to a career-high 578 plate appearances, second only to then-A’s workhorse Sean Murphy among major league catchers.
Smith was fairly consistent all year, with four months of an OPS of at least .810. His only real down month was May, when he hit .217/.327/.349, but followed that up with 43 extra-base hits over the final four months of the season. September (plus the first five days of October) was Smith’s only other month with an under-.800 OPS, but his .238/.304/.457 line was still above average, with five home runs, four doubles, and two triples.
He’s one of only six Dodgers catchers with multiple seasons of at least 20 home runs, after following up his 25-homer campaign in 2021 with 24 more home runs last season.
Smith was also durable, one of only four Dodgers regular position players to avoid the injured list in 2022, along with Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, and Cody Bellinger.
Despite the solid performance, Smith was snubbed for an All-Star nod for a second straight year. Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto was voted by fans to start behind the plate for the National League, and the Braves duo of Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras also made the midsummer classic via player vote, with Contreras as designated hitter.
“I’m still irritated. I think they missed it,” manager Dave Roberts said of Smith’s All-Star snub in July, per SportsNet LA. “I don’t think there’s a manager in the National League that wouldn’t say he’s one of the top two catchers in the National League.”
At the end of the season, with Smith leading all catchers in RBI, second in total bases (236), and third in doubles (26) and runs scored (68), the Dodgers catcher did make the All-MLB second team, which combines both leagues. Realmuto was the first-team selection at catcher.
Smith had two doubles, scored twice, and drove in a run in the first game of the NLDS, but like most of the rest of the lineup cooled off after that, with one single in 12 at-bats plus a sacrifice fly in the final three games of the series.
With 72 career home runs, Smith already ranks seventh all-time among Dodgers who caught at least half of their games, despite playing only four seasons to date, one of which was truncated by a pandemic and a rookie season that didn’t see him seize regular playing time until after the All-Star break.
If Smith delivers in 2023 like he has the last two years, he will likely move into fourth place on said list by the end of next season, and with a few more shots could shoot for Steve Yeager, whose 100 home runs is third among Dodgers catchers.
Stats: .260/.343/.465, 24 HR, 26 doubles, 87 RBI, 127 wRC+, 4.2 bWAR, 3.9 fWAR
Salary: $730,000, plus another nearly $1 million from the new bonus pool for players not yet eligible for salary arbitration
Game of the year
Smith helped fuel a blowout of the Angels on July 15 in Anaheim, as the designated hitter. And hit he did, with a single in the first, a walk in the third, another single in the fifth, an RBI double in the sixth, and a triple in the eighth, scoring after each of his last three hits.
Smith hit three triples in 2022, one more than his previous three seasons combined.
Smith has three years, 90 days of major league service time and is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time. The algorithm at MLB Trade Rumors projected Smith to earn $5.2 million in 2023. More on that in the next week or two.