How Long Should Dodgers Keep Will Smith in OKC?

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On Tuesday evening, the Dodgers got a win befitting of their team.

After some tight games against the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers blew out the Giants 9-0, collected a seven inning shut out performance from Clayton Kershaw, and saw Joe Kelly also pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out. Everything reached base, aside from Kershaw, and Austin Barnes and Enrique Hernandez came through with clutch hits, including Kiké’s grand slam.

Barnes has been having a rough go of it since his return from the Injured List. In his last seven games, the 29 year old catcher has a .100/.154/.100 slash line. His season so far has him at .207/.313/.343/.656 with four home runs.

In more limited playing time, the other catcher Russell Martin is batting .264/.367/.363/.730. But the 36 year old will most likely not be assuming to majority of the playing time while Barnes struggles at the plate.

Meanwhile, down in AAA Oklahoma City, Will Smith is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball. So far this season, the Dodgers’ prospect is slashing .292/.400/.602/1.002. and had five straight games where he hit a home run. He has 13 homers, 10 doubles and two triples.

The 24 year old catcher has spent some time in the big leagues this season, mainly filling in while Barnes was on the IL. In the six games he was with Los Angeles, Smith hit .286 with two home runs, including a walk-off, a double and a .967 OPS. Fans we disappointed when he was sent back down to Oklahoma City, thinking that even in his small sample size he had earned the right to stay in the majors.

By all metrics Smith does deserve to be with the big league team, especially with Barnes not producing at the plate. But as we’ve stated many times on this simple blog, Roberts is not one to make changes just because a player is in the midst of a slump, no matter how big. While Barnes does have an option left on his contract, he is not likely to be sent down in favor of the young catcher.

Still, the bottom of the Dodgers’ lineup has become the place where rallies go to die. Once again, the Dodgers have the luxury of a huge lead in the NL West, and the rest of the offense being formidable, while those who are in those big slumps figure it out. The question remains whether Barnes, Hernandez and Chris Taylor will figure it out, and who the Dodgers would have take their place if they don’t in time for the playoffs.

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20 thoughts on “How Long Should Dodgers Keep Will Smith in OKC?

  1. I could see another IL stint for Barnes in July and if Smith picks up where he left off they lose Barnes. The staff will have a say in this. If they really like Barnes it would be tough to justify replacing him with a rookie. We are second in MLB in pitching. Teams typically don’t mess with that measure of success.

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  2. Scoop I could be catching this staff right now! That’s why they bring up Smith now so by playoffs he’s comfortable with all the staff. The kid has all the tools both offensively and defensively. If it doesn’t work out then you go back to Barnes

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    1. Go back to Barnes? Does that mean you would send Barnes to the minors?

      I know they believe he’s ready defensively, and his offense has clearly been a surprise to everyone (he hit .233 between AA and AAA last year) but he is 24 and appears to have figured it out. I certainly could live with it, but do you think management will make that move mid season? The guy only has 21 Major League at bats.

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  3. You could say the same about Muncy last year and Belli the year before. I get that catching is a much different position with a lot more responsibility but We’re trying to win a championship this year and we need to put the best team on the field come October and I think Smith is a big upgrade over Barnes!

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  4. We have plenty of sample size to know that Austin Barnes sucks offensively. He can barely remain above the “Mendoza Line.” His 2017 season was clearly an anomaly. He should be traded along with a prospect or two to get a top-shelf reliever. Will Smith is deserving of significant MLB playing time.

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    1. I won’t present a counter argument to that because I believe you’re right. I think he’s capable of being better than he has shown, but Smith appears to be a better option. It could happen, I just have a gut feeling that management doesn’t want to do it. Something tells me Barnes is a favorite son with a long leash.

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  5. Well this could end up being very bad. Anytime I hear forearm discomfort for a pitcher I fear Tommy John surgery is right around the corner. Praying Hill didn’t tear his UCL.

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  6. I don’t think the FO is going to Hand the keys over to smith, and dump Barnes. Smith has only 21 at bats, you guys are getting a little carried away. Smith needs a season or two of being on the roster as a part time player before we turn over the starting position to him, you guys are acting like our success, or failure depends on how Barnes plays, our success or failure depends on the bull pen.

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  7. Tightness in the forearm at any time is not good. In the first inning? Start shopping Andy.

    The Dodgers can afford to be patient with Barnes. He doesn’t even need to OPS at league average to be valuable to this team.

    Opening up a can of whoopass on the last place giants. It’s been a good night so far.

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  8. At least we won’t need to trade for a starter if Hill does go down. You give Stripling the rotation spot until you get to the point in the season where you can transition Urias back to starting without having to remove him from the rotation. I figure that will be around August 15th so he has two months in the rotation including the playoffs.

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    1. “A forearm injury is ominous for a pitcher because it sometimes serves as a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Hill has already undergone the procedure once, in 2011, though he’s “pretty confident” he won’t require it this time. The 39-year-old revealed that a “very preliminary ultrasound” showed his elbow ligament’s still intact.”

      He’s pretty confident. Ok.

      I’ve said all along every Dodger starter will get time on the IL this summer. It’s Hill’s turn.

      Yeah, Stripling. He can probably go 5. Probably. He’s projected to go over 100 innings. He had 122 last year, though the last several he wasn’t very good. Id rather he stay in the bullpen but I expected this so, here it is. As we move into the summer we move into the deep end. Que Gaga.

      We’re on pace for 108 wins. I didn’t expect to win 100, though I believe it’s possible. Every year of this current run the team has hit a slump. Is losing Seager and Hill a sign? Maybe. On this date last year we had 38 wins. We ended the regular season with 91. How many wins this year?

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  9. Back home in Colorado. Got in about 1:30 in the morning yesterday. I did get to watch last nights game. I think I want to see Taylor do it for more than a couple of games before I believe he is back to form. Kike is a mess and I only use him on defense as a late inning guy until he gets his head on straight. He hits a grand salami and suddenly thinks he is Manny Ramirez. He did, in his defense, try to go the opposite way a couple of times last night, but hit atem balls. Nice to see that Garlick got his first dinger last night and it was caught by the same Utley fan who sits out there at the edge of the pavilion and has caught a lot of homers. Wonder what Garlick had to trade to get the ball back. Smith’s cost them a Bellinger autographed bat. As for Smith, he has hit 5 homers in the last 5 days down at OKC. Pretty much has done as much as he needs to do at the AAA level. Now, do they wait until the winter when Martin will be a free agent and gone, or do they trade Barnes like they did AJ Ellis, and bring the kid up to caddy for Martin, who despite not showing his previous power is very deft at handling the staff and teaching the kid. Friedman has traded a trusted player before and if some team covets a defensive minded catcher, Barnes could be moved. Most likely will not happen. But it is food for thought. Belli has a chance to have 30 dingers by the All Star game. Yelich will most likely hit that mark in the next week or so.

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    1. Glad you got back safely Bear. Looking forward to hearing from the grouchy guy again and not the pleasant character we had while you were here in SoCal. 🙂
      A number of people seem to think it might be a good idea to trade Barnes. I really don’t have an opinion on that – I could go either way. The question I have, however, is if we think he isn’t good enough to keep, what makes us think he would have much trade value. There are a lot of good defensive catchers out there so I don’t see the point in trading low. I’m guessing that Barnes or Martin will hit the IL within the next 2-3 weeks and we’ll see Smith again, even if only for a short while. I’m thinking that between now and the end of August, AF will do a nice job of rotating all three guys. Once September hits, Smith will be up here permanently and depending upon how he performs, he will or won’t make the 2019 playoff roster. He’s probably guaranteed himself a spot for 2020.

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    2. Hey Bear. Glad you made it home safely.

      To address your points, Barnes, Taylor and Kiké look like they’ve always looked to me. They all have had an outlier year but as I recall it was ONE for each of them. I doubt management expects them to hit close to .300 again. Friedman knows these guys and accepts them for what they are, streaky players who can be counted on to be streaky players. They are all affordable, that’s for sure, and all have been a part of the recent successful runs so why risk it? It could a chemistry experiment that goes awry.

      I agree that Barnes won’t be moved. I don’t expect any of them to be moved. We need a strong, reliable bullpen piece and all our starters healthy and we should be fine.

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  10. The Mets fired their pitching coach today and replaced him with Phil Regan. If that name sounds familiar, Regan was a teammate of Sandy Koufax’s with the Dodgers. He is 82 years old. I am delighted to announce that I am apparently too young to be the pitching coach for the New York Mets………………………and I didn’t think there was anything I was too young for.

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      1. Let’s face it Scoop, life is a temporary appointment.
        I haven’t been able to verify it yet, but I hear that Koufax will be the new bullpen coach.

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