Louisville catcher Will Smith becomes Dodgers’ second first-round pick

By Cary Osborne

The Dodgers took University of Louisville catcher Will Smith with the No. 32 overall selection — the Zack Greinke compensation pick — in the 2016 MLB Draft on Thursday.

It’s the first time the Dodgers have drafted a catcher in the first round since 1994, when they took Paul Konerko — who later became a six-time All-Star at first base.

Smith batted .380/.476/.573 with seven home runs for Louisville in 2016. He also threw out 12 of 15 basestealers.

The predraft rankings for Smith are as follows:

  • MLB.com: 110
  • Baseball America: 74
  • Keith Law/ESPN: 59

Smith follows high school shortstop Gavin Lux, who the Dodgers selected with the 20th overall pick in the draft.

Here’s Smith’s full profile at MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

In a year where a lot of the best college catching prospects are skewed heavily in favor of offense (Miami’s Zack Collins, Virginia’s Matt Thaiss) or defense (Tulane’s Jake Rogers), Smith is one of the better all-around backstops available. He’s a quality defender who has upped his offensive game as a junior.

Smith stands out most for his work behind the plate. He has solid arm strength and such a quick transfer that he consistently records pop times of 1.9 seconds or less and opponents rarely try to run on him. He’s a good receiver who has more athleticism and agility than most backstops.

After batting a combined .235 in his first two years at Louisville, Smith has been one of the Cardinals’ most productive hitters this spring. He has a compact right-handed swing that lends itself to contact and getting on base, if not much power. He has at least average speed and can steal a base on occasion.

From Baseball America:

As crosscheckers and scouting directors piled up frequent flyer miles and Marriott points to get to Louisville to see Corey Ray, Zack Burdi, Kyle Funkhouser, Drew Harrington and Nick Solak, they couldn’t help but also notice Smith. Smith is a solid-average receiver who has proven his ability to handle quality stuff by catching the plus stuff on Louisville’s staff. He’s very athletic for a catcher (he’s a plus runner) and has shown an average arm (he’s thrown out 44 percent of base stealers). At the plate, Smith has below-average power but shows the ability to pull the ball over the fence. Smith does make plenty of contact; he had struck out in only 7 percent of his plate appearances this year and had been hit by more pitches (15) than he’d struck out (11) heading into the final week of the regular season. Smith doesn’t project as any more than an average hitter, but it’s hard to ignore his .360 batting average and his .400-plus average and .500-plus on-base percentage in ACC games.

 

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