Will Smith (LAD): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
I never know if talking about my thought process to choose the featured hitter is worth writing about, but here we are. You’re going to read it and you’re going to like it. I saw Will Smith’s stat line and was not sure if it was enough for a feature. But then I saw his name, and it was late and it was an easy pun.
However, before I sealed the deal, I wanted to glance at his season stats to ensure there was a story to be told. I hadn’t seen much writing on him yet and he hasn’t popped up for me once to write here before. I was expecting a normal Will Smith line. What I got was this: .305/.407/.532 with a 14.8% walk rate and 10.1% K rate. His wRC+ is 156 and he’s having his best season (not including 2020) of his career.
He has been one of the top fantasy catchers since his debut in 2019. The last two seasons, he has hit 25 and 24 homers, scored around 70 runs and knocked in about 80 with over 500 plate appearances while catching and hitting .260. And so far this season, he is on pace for basically 27 homers, 90 runs, and 90 RBI while batting over .300. That’s first-round stuff when coming from a catcher.
Smith is actually hitting many more ground balls this season (more than fly balls too with a lower-line drive rate). He’s hitting the ball as hard as before but with the increased grounders, has a lower barrel rate. However, his BABIP isn’t absurdly high, a pretty standard .290, only 13 points higher than his career. A lot of this success is coming from handling the breaking stuff much better, decreased whiffs, more balls in play, and more opportunities.
He is having an elite season and remains one of the best fantasy catchers in the game.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday
Ryan Noda (OAK): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
Ryan Noda kicked off a seven-run first inning with a walk and then walked again later that inning with the bases loaded. He later clubbed a line-drive 361-foot homer for his seventh on the season. Noda has shown some good pop in his first season in the bigs with a .473 SLG. In his first 212 plate appearances, he is striking out 30% of the time, yet is also walking nearly 20% of the time.
Elly De La Cruz (CIN): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
I know Mark Steubinger featured Elly literally yesterday since it was his debut. But like he was better the second time? So I must continue! He started the day with a 115 mph missile that travelled 458 feet for a home run. Yep, in his second major league game. He added a triple the next inning and then struck out a few times. But 458 feet! 115 mph!
Juan Soto (SD): 5-5, 2B, R, 4 RBI.
Believe it or not, this was Juan Soto’s first-ever five-hit game. Before tonight, he had six games with four hits, including one earlier this May. It started with a slow grounder that produced a bad throw that was not an error. The second hit was a grounder the other way no one was near. The next two solid liners, one to left and the other to right. And he capped it off with a double lined into the gap. This game brought his average up from .248 to .265 and increased his wRC+ by seven points.
Gary Sánchez (SD): 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
After his short stint with the Mets, Gary Sánchez has been pounding the ball for the Padres. He now has four homers in nine games, adding a 414-foot bomb, and increasing his season RBI total to 10 (nine with the Padres). Of course, it’s leaving the Mets that kick starts this guy again. He’s always been valuable enough as a fantasy catcher, even last season, despite a .205 average. And if he can have a reasonable average (say .230 something again) and he keeps playing, he might be worth a shot.
Jesús Sánchez (MIA): 3-4, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Sánchez launched a 445-foot bomb for his sixth of the season and his second in back-to-back games. He had two other hits and knocked in four batters (three with the homer). Since the start of June, he’s been plugged into the meat of the lineup after returning for the IL with a hamstring strain. And he’s taken off with a .345/.406/.655 slash in those 32 plate appearances. His starts were hit or miss throughout the beginning of the year but it seems like they are going with him for now and he’s proving they should.
Rodolfo Castro (PIT): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
I haven’t heard much about Castro after his excellent start, but that mirrors the Pirates’ season as well. In his first at-bat yesterday, he popped a 430-foot dinger then added a hard-hit double in his next at-bat. This 24-year-old is still hitting the ball pretty hard (42%) but is not playing regularly. He looks to be playing four or five games a week which is fine but he is not producing enough to be anything more than a deeper league player.
Seth Brown (OAK): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB.
Much like Noda, Brown walked in his first two at-bats (one being with the bases loaded) and then added a barrage of hits. That includes a 108 mph double late in the game to be then knocked in by a Brent Rooker double. Brown is one of the stalwarts of the A’s lineup, a 30-year-old who has started consistently since 2021. He’s only been in 24 games this season struggling with an injured oblique. It has been a rough season for him but he’s picking it up in the last few games. Hopefully, this gets the ball rolling.
Joey Wiemer (MIL): 4-4, 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.
I love when I’m prepping to write this article the night before and noting ‘Oh, Wiemer is two for two with a dinger! Let’s add him to the list.’ Then I wake up early to finish this up and boom he has two dingers, four hits, and five RBI! It’s a good feeling. Neither home run was crushed, both under 400 feet, and he added a 100 mph, 361-foot double too. He now has an eight-game hitting streak where he is slugging 1.000 over that span. He’s had a fine season (96 wRC+) for a rookie, but what stands out to me is that he has a fair shot of at least 20/20. He’s at eight homers and nine steals with plenty left to play.
Corbin Carroll (ARI): 4-5, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, SB.
Carroll had a huge four-hit day including a 110 mph single, and 413-foot homer. He also stole second after a bunt single in the first for his 18th of the season. He is having a monster rookie year with 11 homers and those 18 steals being coupled with a .300 average and 149 wRC+. This man can do it all and he’s only 22. There isn’t much to nitpick here. His .342 BABIP is high and probably means he won’t be hitting .300 for long, but despite the 46.2% ground ball rate, his speed is a solid counter.
Spencer Steer (CIN): 1-3, R, RBI, 2 SB.
Steer is one of, I think, 50(?) Reds’ rookies starting in the infield this season. And now with Elly up there’s another to fight for a starting job every day. Steer has been more of a power bat to start his career (.491 SLG) but stole two bases yesterday on top of the two he stole last week in one game. He’s up to five on the season after only stealing one back in mid-April. There isn’t much speed but if he can figure out to take advantage of the new rules, sneaking a few extras here and there will not hurt fantasy-wise.
Michael Harris II (ATL): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Harris only played a week before going to the IL with a lower back issue. He returned at the beginning of May but had some issues with his knee so he sat out a few more games til May 6th. It has been a rocky start to the year, and now with 142 plate appearances under his belt, he hasn’t been able to meet the expectations set by his Rookie of the Year season last year. He is slashing .181/.261/.291 with only three homers and five steals. Yesterday was the first bright spot in a while, with two extra-base hits and a 443-foot bomb to seal the game in the eighth. He’s still hitting the ball hard and a .225 BABIP will hurt so I see brighter days for him this year.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)