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Dodgers prospect Will Smith up; Barnes on IL

Kelly activated; Ferguson sent to Triple-A
@kengurnick
May 27, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers promoted young catcher Will Smith to the big leagues for the first time on Monday and activated reliever Joe Kelly from the bereavement list. The pair replaced catcher Austin Barnes, who went on the 10-day injured list with a mild left groin strain, and struggling

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers promoted young catcher Will Smith to the big leagues for the first time on Monday and activated reliever Joe Kelly from the bereavement list.

The pair replaced catcher Austin Barnes, who went on the 10-day injured list with a mild left groin strain, and struggling reliever Caleb Ferguson, who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Manager Dave Roberts said he expects Barnes, who was injured running the bases on Sunday, to spend the minimum 10 days on the sidelines. Roberts said Smith will be the starting catcher on Tuesday night against the Mets. Barnes told the Dodgers skipper that the injury was a three on a scale of 1-10, and he lobbied to remain active. Russell Martin was Los Angeles' starting catcher on Monday.

Smith, ranked as the club’s No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, caught fire offensively in the last month, raising his average to .290 with eight homers, 28 RBIs and a .954 OPS. He will share time with Martin.

“There’s going to be some nerves, the family’s coming in from Kentucky, but he’s going to go out and compete,” Roberts said of Smith, whose promotion was considered when Martin hurt his back earlier in the season, when the club instead called up veteran Rocky Gale.

“Will’s been around our guys the last few years. Don’t let that baby face, clean-shaven fool you. This guy’s as tough as they come. Has a great way about him.”

Smith said mechanical adjustments in the offseason and Spring Training led to his offensive improvement. The 24-year-old Smith signed for $1,722,500 as a first-round pick in 2016 out of Louisville.

Here’s his MLB Pipeline scouting report: “Smith has outstanding athleticism for a catcher and it translates into quality defense behind the plate. His average to solid arm strength plays as plus because he has quick footwork. With his soft hands and agility, he receives and frames well, and he also has shown he's a capable third baseman and passable second baseman.

“Los Angeles has had Smith add loft to his right-handed swing, and he has shown more power than he did at Louisville while seeing his strikeout rate soar from 10 percent in college to 24 percent in his first three years as a pro. He probably won't produce much in the way of batting average, but he could provide 15-20 homers per season along with a healthy amount of walks. He also has solid speed and can steal an occasional base.”

Barnes was injured just as his bat heated up after a slow start. He was batting .198 a week ago but went 7-for-15 to raise his average to .233 going into Sunday’s game, when he was injured running the bases.

Ferguson, however, has struggled most of this season with a 5.94 ERA and 1.80 WHIP, compared to 3.49 and 1.12 marks last season. On Sunday, he was charged with three runs in one inning.

“It wasn’t a reaction to yesterday’s outing,” Roberts said. “I thought he threw the ball decent. Caleb’s a guy we need going forward, and I expect it to be a brief stint in OKC.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.