Rancho Cucamonga, California —— At the top of this post, watch our scouting video of Los Angeles Dodgers catcher/infield prospect Will Smith, taken from a late April series for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes at home against the San Jose Giants.
To read our feature interview with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Will Smith that was also published today, please click here. To visit Will Smith’s player page, please click here. And please subscribe to the Baseball Census YouTube channel here for hundreds more videos like this one.
Will Smith scouting report notes
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ first round draft pick in 2016, Will Smith is a unique defensive talent with enough athleticism and speed to play in the middle infield, and the arm strength, framing skills, and footwork to catch. The Dodgers have focused his career far more behind the plate (64 career games behind the plate against nine at second base and 12 at third base), but Smith has legitimate defensive tools across the infield and with the catcher’s gear, and that could make him very valuable on a 25-man National League roster one day. His arm strength might be his biggest asset right now, but soft hands and a good feel for pitch framing have him improving rapidly as he catches more professional innings. That path could turn him into an everyday catcher, but the ability to play infield at a high level is an enticing thought in regards to having him as a super utility player.
At the plate, Will Smith has made some significant adjustments between 2016 and today. He’s slightly taller in his stance, his back elbow is down, his hands start slightly lower than they did a year ago, he’s added a more pronounced leg kick to his approach, and he doesn’t get quite as far spaced out in his stride to sap power as he did last year. The sum total of all these (and likely other) approach changes leave him better equipped to hit line drives and show off some moderate gap-to-gap power. He’s never going to be a plus power hitter and could even struggle to show off average power at higher levels, but the Los Angeles Dodgers’ changes to his swing path and plane now put him in a better position to do damage with line drives than a year ago.
His stats bear all that out: here in his second shot at Rancho Cucamonga, Smith is slashing .268/.400/.518/.918 with six home runs and six stolen bases over his first 32 games. More encouragingly, even despite 32 strikeouts over 112 at-bats, Smith has walked 19 times already, a good sign that his changes in swing mechanics don’t appear to have adversely affected his pitch selection or approach with regards to strike zone discipline. He’ll always have some swing-and-miss in his game and will probably never hit for average at a high level, but he’s patient and can work deep counts. It’s an asset to him that he’s already showing an ability to walk—especially considering how he can use his good speed once on the bases.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have moved Will Smith pretty quickly to this point in his professional career; he made it up to High-A by the end of last summer, less than three months after being drafted, and he could well find himself in Double-A by the end of the year if things keep going according to plan. He’s got the chops to continue catching, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves there full-time (he’s practically done that already, to a degree). That said, there’s such a value on a National League roster to have a flexible utility man who can play multiple positions—and catch!—at a high level that it might be worth continuing to develop his multi-talented defensive skills while letting his swing adjustments take hold at the plate.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a lot of exceptional prospects with raw tools who will (deservedly) get an incredible amount of attention, but Will Smith may fly under the radar a little bit on his way to Chavez Ravine by the end of 2018. Depending on how he’s used once he gets there, he could prove to be a shrewd draft and development acquisition and the perfect fit for a National League bench not long after that. At the very least, the Will Smith baseball future is that of a utility player and backup catcher with some unique ability to impact a roster, and he might yet do more than that if his swing adjustments hold up at higher levels.
For our feature interview with Los Angeles Dodgers catcher/infielder Will Smith, please click here.
To visit Will Smith’s player page, please click here.
Will Smith scouting report: 140 characters or less
A line-drive hitter who made swing changes to improve at bat, Will Smith’s defensive flexibility and athleticism do him favors as a catcher.
Will Smith scouting report video
Here’s a look at our most recent Will Smith scouting report video, taken from a late April series for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes against the San Jose Giants:
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Will Smith scouting report GIFs
In addition to our video clips, we broke out some Will Smith baseball GIFs for a deeper look at his mechanics, etc.:
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In this Los Angeles Dodgers / Will Smith baseball scouting report: