Dodgers: Insider Has Us Wondering About Will Smith’s Future in LA
Will Smith is one of the best catchers in baseball. Dodgers prospect Diego Cartaya might be even better. It’s a good problem to have for LA.
The Dodgers have one of the best catchers in baseball, Will Smith. In two full seasons and two partial seasons in the big leagues, Smith has posted a 129 OPS+ and provided very good defense behind the plate. Since 2019, Smith’s 10.8 Wins Above Replacement is third among catchers, trailing only JT Realmuto and Willson Contreras.
Los Angeles also has one of the top farm systems in baseball, and their consensus top prospect is … you guessed it, a catcher. Diego Cartaya is 21 years old, and he has scouts everywhere raving about his potential as a future superstar.
There’s no logjam yet — Cartaya hasn’t yet played above High-A in the minors — but the Venezuelan prospect already has people thinking about Smith’s future in LA.
ESPN put together a column of bold predictions about some of this year’s top prospects, and Alden Gonzalez’s prediction had to do with the two Dodgers catchers.
Diego Cartaya (C): Will be the next Will Smith — or better
By the end of the year, it’ll be fair to wonder whether Cartaya can be just as good — if not better — than Smith, the current catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Smith, 27, is already one of the sport’s greatest catchers. But Cartaya’s combination of on-base ability and power, along with his plus arm strength and steadily improving defense, will soon make industry executives wonder if Smith might actually be expendable.
“Will is an All-Star,” one longtime scout said. “Cartaya has a chance to be a cornerstone.”
What happens if, by the end of this year, it’s clear that LA’s starting catcher in 2024 is Cartaya, not Smith? Well, one option is to just keep both of them. With the designated hitter now in the National League, Smith and Cartaya could each start 81 games at catcher and another 70 or so at DH. Both have the offensive firepower to easily hold down the DH spot, and having the two catchers split time between C and DH might make the Dodgers the best in the league at both spots.
Smith will be eligible for free agency after the 2025 season, so it’s easy to see Los Angeles going with that sort of platoon for the two seasons they’d overlap. They also have Austin Barnes under contract for 2024, so they’d have to decide whether to carry three catchers or trade Barnes.
The other option, of course, would be to trade Smith as soon as Cartaya is ready. Smith would undoubtedly command a bounty in return, so it could be a win/win situation. But that would be a lot of pressure to put on Cartaya — “Hey, welcome to the big leagues! You’re the starting catcher on a team with World Series aspirations, and you’re replacing one of the best catchers in baseball!”
In our opinion, at least a year of a Smith/Cartaya C/DH platoon makes a lot of sense, both for the team’s success and for Cartaya’s development. Maybe you even play with the idea of Smith at third base during that season and see how that goes.
But don’t worry, as soon as we think we have this conundrum figured out, someone will remind us about Dalton Rushing.