Lots of people were talking about Will Smith on Monday, which I can only assume was because the Dodgers lead MLB in projected Wins Above Replacement from catcher this season, per the 2022 FanGraphs positional power rankings.
Dodgers catchers project for a 4.7 fWAR this season, with 3.7 WAR coming from Smith. Austin Barnes being an excellent backup, especially at catcher framing, helps vault the Dodgers above the White Sox — with former Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal — at the position.
But it’s Smith providing the bulk of the value, entering his age-27 season after hitting .258/.365/.495, a 130 wRC+ with 25 home runs in 2021.
“His power took a bit of a step backward, as did his plate discipline, but given his overall performance and the lack of fundamental weaknesses in his game, those feel like petty complaints,” Dan Szymborski wrote at FanGraphs. “Should Smith miss the All-Star Game again in 2022, it may be enough to permanently alienate me from the philosophical concept of democracy.”
Smith making his first All-Star team in the year the midsummer classic returns to Dodger Stadium would be a nice reward for the catcher, perhaps a delayed birthday gift after Smith turned 27 on Monday. Smith’s birthday had impeccable timing after Sunday night’s Oscar shenanigans, which Smith couldn’t help but be aware of.
#Dodgers Will Smith is celebrating his 27th birthday today by being mistaken for that other Will Smith. Said he didn't see the "Slap Heard Round the World" live but started getting mentions on Twitter from people telling him how great it was that he stood up for Jada that way— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 28, 2022
Cody Bellinger discourse took an odd path over the weekend. His four strikeouts on Saturday made his performance newsworthy, as it extended his streak to nine straight at-bats ending with a K. But it may have also jumped the gun on some longer pieces, which were buoyed by Sunday’s resulting conversations and interviews. Jack Harris at the Los Angeles Times and Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register each had longer features on Bellinger’s struggles, each quoting Dave Roberts telling Bellinger, “Be a good hitter.”
Stephanie Apstein at Sports Illustrated also profiled Bellinger’s struggles.
Jake Lamb talked about the mental struggles transitioning from a regular player to a reserve, with Plunkett at the OC Register.
Old friend Albert Pujols, whose one-year deal with the Cardinals was finalized on Monday, said that this season — his 22nd in the majors — will be his last.
New old friend Matt Beaty was traded to the Padres on Monday, ending a nearly seven-year run in the Dodgers organization. Matt’s wife Jesica wrote this about their experience with Los Angeles: “The people that the Dodgers staffed and the player development in their minor league system is top notch. Matt puts in all the work and has the tools, but I think it’s fair to say he wouldn’t be the player he is without the help along the way with some of the hitting coaches, mentors, etc. through the system and teaching him how to be a big leaguer.”
Sam Dykstra at MLB.com was in Peoria watching a Dodgers minor league game, and saw top prospect Diego Cartaya hit both a home run and this double: