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2023 Dodgers in review: Will Smith

Smith has cemented himself as an intelligent, reliable piece of the Dodgers’ roster puzzle.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will Smith made his first All-Star team this year, and the honor was well deserved. He started 75% of games. a career high after years of backing up Austin Barnes at catcher, with stellar results.

“What he does offensively, as well as doing what we need to do with the pitching staff and taking pride in that — he makes it look easy,” said Clayton Kershaw, who has almost exclusively pitched to Barnes in the past.

That’s no small feat. Up to his All-Star appearance, Smith led all National League catchers in runs scored (44); was second in RBI (46), on-base percentage, wRC+, and fWAR (3.0); and ranked third in homers.

The season wasn’t without its offensive issues, though. Smith developed some bad hitting habits while recovering from a broken rib that happened when he was hit by a pitch from St. Louis Cardinals reliever Jake Woodford on April 30. As a result, his average in the final two-thirds of the season dipped to around .241 after starting off strong at .313. Smith’s OBP and slugging percentage fell more dramatically, from .415/.531 in his first 54 games to .312/.384 in the last third.

Smith also sustained a concussion after taking two foul balls off of his mask in early April against the Giants, which left him on the injured list for 13 games. The Dodgers seemed to miss him terribly: They were 8-7 with Smith on the injured list, then went 19-5 with him in the lineup.

Defensively, Smith continues to set himself apart when it comes to running the game.

“If you look at the last few years, he’s been more proactive as far as mound visits and speaking up in meetings,” said manager Dave Roberts in July, per the Los Angeles Times ”That takes time. But when he does say something, it’s heard. It lands with players. And it’s refreshing to have a guy that is clearly about the team, and the pitchers. There’s no self-promotion. That’s something I really respect.”

Dodgers staff have also recognized Smith for his masterful pitch calling and understanding of game plans.

Like Barnes, Smith struggled to stop steals this season—though Dodgers pitchers may have had something to do with that. His .996 fielding percentage shows a high overall level of play behind the plate.

In addition to his All-Star honors, Smith was nominated for the All-MLB team, was a top vote-getter for a Silver Slugger award at the catcher position, and represented Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

2023 particulars

Age: 28

Stats: .261/.359/.438, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 63 BB, 121 wRC+, 4.1 rWAR, 4.4 fWAR

Salary: $5.25 million

Game of the year

On May 15, Smith helped the Dodgers win a 12-inning slog against the Minnesota Twins at Dodger Stadium. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning, scored after hitting a single in the third, and reached on an error that helped spur the departure of Twins pitcher Pablo López. After the Twins not only tied the game after trailing 5-1 but then scored in the 10th, Smith re-tied the game after booking it home on a single from J.D. Martinez. Flashy? No. But neither, as we know, is Smith.

Honorable mention: Smith made his presence known in his first All-Star Game by drawing a walk, stealing a base, and catching the last pitch of the National League’s 3-2 win.

Roster status

Smith is once again eligible for arbitration this offseason. He was signed to a one-year deal last year to avoid a hearing and is estimated by MLB Trade Rumors to make $9.3 million in 2024.