The Dodgers have suffered a rash of injuries lately. Corey Seager and David Freese both have strained hamstrings and Rich Hill was diagnosed with a forearm strain. Because of the injuries the Dodgers called up rookie catching sensation Will Smith along with a couple of other guys. He’s already made quite an impact during his first sting with the big club.
I’ve talked about the Dodger’s catching situation in great detail here over the last several months. Austin Barnes while being a good defensive catcher continues to disappoint at the plate. While he was out a couple of weeks when he battled a groin strain, he’s otherwise been relatively healthy. Things haven’t changed for him. He remains an awful hitter. So far through 173 plate appearances he is slashing .220/.318/.373 with little power (5 home runs 18 runs batted in) and has posted an OPS+ of 82. That is slightly better than the putrid OPS+ of 72 he registered in 2018, but not by much. In his five major league seasons Barnes has tallied an OPS+ of over 100 just once.
Smith on the other hand has proven himself to be not only very capable behind the dish but also quite adept with the bat. Smith is just 24-years old and has already notched two walk-off home runs in a matter of weeks. His last walk-off dinger came against the Phillies back on
May 30 June 1. He then elated everyone by slugging yet another one on Sunday afternoon in the Dodger’s win over the Rockies.
Through 24 plate appearances Smith is batting .318/.375/.773 (7 for 22) with 3 home runs (almost as much as Barnes already) and six runs driven in. On top of the walk-off blasts he’s also thrown out two base runners attempting to steal, showing off his strong and accurate throwing arm.
Smith has a long way to go and much to learn behind the plate. While Barnes does know the pitching staff better than any other receiver on the Dodger’s roster, it doesn’t make much sense to keep playing Barnes when the Dodgers have a younger, better and stronger hitting catcher. Look, Barnes is an atrocious hitter and it’s just not likely to ever change. That’s not to disparage Barnes. As I just mentioned above he’s a solid catcher. He can call a good game, and rarely makes defensive miscues. That doesn’t make up for his flaccid bat. At this point I see no reason to continue to play Barnes over Smith. It’s time for the Will Smith era to begin.