Will Smith (smithwi04)

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William Michael Smith

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Biographical Information[edit]

Will Smith made it to the majors in 2012.

Smith was taken by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 40th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Amazingly, the player picked right before him (Eric Thames) also would wind up in the majors. Smith did not sign with Tampa Bay, going on to junior college instead. He then went to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 7th round of the 2008 amateur draft. The signing scout was Tom Kotchman. He had an excellent pro debut with the Orem Owlz, going 8-2 with a 3.08 ERA. In 73 innings, he struck out 76 and only walked six. He tied Jayson Miller for third in the Pioneer League in wins, was 4th in ERA (after Dexter Carter, Miller and Geison Aguasviva) and was 7th in strikeouts. He had the lowest walk rate in the league. Baseball America rated him as the league's #3 prospect, after Wilin Rosario and Cutter Dykstra and right ahead of Dee Gordon. He made the league All-Star team, joining Leonardo Astorga, Carter, Bryan Casey, Dan Houston and Miller as the selected hurlers.

With the 2009 Cedar Rapids Kernels, Will was 10-5 with a 3.76 ERA and 24 walks in 115 innings. He tied for 7th in the Midwest League in victories. Only Alexander Torres won more games among Angels farmhands. This time, he did not make the Baseball America top-20 prospect list for his loop. Smith had a whirlwind 2010. He pitched for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (2-2, 4.58 in 6 G), Arkansas Travelers (1-2, 7.23, 33 H in 18 2/3 IP) and Salt Lake Bees (2-4, 5.60) in the Angels chain, then was dealt with Sean O'Sullivan to the Kansas City Royals for Alberto Callaspo. Assigned to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, he was 4-1 with a 2.80 ERA. He then ended the season with a 5th team, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Appearing for them only in the postseason, the lefty was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts as the team won the Texas League title.

In 2011, Smith had a 13-9, 3.85 record for the Naturals. He teamed with Kelvin Herrera on a combined no-hitter on July 19, the first ever for the Naturals. He was among the TL league leaders in wins (1st), innings (161 1/3, 1st), hits allowed (171, 3rd), strikeouts (108, 10th), losses (tied for 9th) and ERA (5th, between Dallas Keuchel and Ben Snyder). He also led Royals farmhands in victories.

Smith began 2012 with the Omaha Storm Chasers and was 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA after nine starts. He was called up to the majors when Chris Getz went on the DL, as the Royals needed pitching depth. He was roasted in his debut in The Show on May 23rd. The 22-year-old got the call against a struggling (for the Yankees) New York Yankees club. He allowed six hits (three homers) and five runs in 3 1/3 IP. Curtis Granderson took him deep once and Alex Rodriguez did so twice. Overall, he made 16 starts for the Royals that first season, ending the year with a record of 6-9, 5.32 while pitching 89 2/3 innings. He split 2013 between Kansas City and the minors. In the big leagues, he went 2-1, 3.24 in 19 games, making only one start. He struck out 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings, after going 6-4, 3.03 in 18 games for Omaha. On December 5th, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in return for OF Norichika Aoki. In 2014, he led the National League with 78 games for tne Brewers, all in relief. His record was 1-3, 3.70 with 1 save and 86 K's in 65 2/3 innings.

On May 21, 2015, he was caught with rosin and sunscreen on his forearm in an appearance against the Atlanta Braves and was immediately ejected by umpire Jim Joyce. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez saw the substance from the dugout and complained to Joyce as soon as he saw Smith touch his forearm before throwing a pitch in the 7th inning. The violation was quite apparent, and Smith confessed that he he had used the substance to get a better grip on the ball while warming up in the bullpen, but had forgotten to wipe it off before entering the game. He also received an eight-game suspension as a result, which was reduced to six games after he appealed. He pitched 76 times that year, going 7-2 with a 2.70 ERA. He struck out 91 batters in 63 1/3 innings. He missed the start of the 2016 season with a freak injury: he tore a ligament in his knee taking off his spikes after a spring training game. As a result, he did not make his first appearance until June 2nd. After 27 games, he was 1-3, 3.68 when on August 1st, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in return for Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac. He pitched 26 times for San Francisco, going 1-1, 2.95. He also made two appearances in the postseason, giving up no runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Smith suffered a setback in spring training in 2017 when he was diagnosed with a damaged elbow ligament. He missed all of the season, but returned with the Giants in 2018. He made a nice comeback pitching 54 games that season with a record of 2-3, 2.55 with 14 saves, taking over as closer late in the season. He followed that up with the best season of his career in 2019, when he saved 34 games and was 6-0, 2.76 in 63 games. He also struck out 96 batters in 65 1/3 innings and made the All-Star team for the first time. After the season, he became a free agent and cashed in on his breakout year, signing on November 14th with the Atlanta Braves for three years and $40 million.

In 2020, he went 2-2, 4.50 in 18 games as a set-up man for the Braves, pitching 16 innings and made another 7 outings in the postseason. He was credited with two wins, in Game 1 of the Division Series against the Miami Marlins, and in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However his most memorable moment came when he faced his namesake, Dodgers C Will Smith in Game 5 on October 16th. It came in a crucial situation in the top of the 6th inning, with the Braves leading 2-1, with two outs and two on, one of them being Max Muncy, whom Smith had just walked after coming in in relief of Shane Greene. The hitter won the battle, hitting a three-run homer that gave the Dodgers a lead they would never relinquish. In 2021, he was the Braves' closer, racking up 37 saves, third most in the National League, while going 3-7, 3.44 in 68 games. He also led the NL in games finished with 60. He as once again used in plenty of key situations in the postseason, making 11 appearances and not giving up a run in as many innings as the Braves rolled to their first Championship since 1995 by defeating the Houston Astros in the World Series. He picked up 2 wins and 6 saves during the postseason and was on the mound for the final inning of Game 6 on November 2nd when the Braves clinched the title with a 7-0 win.

In 2022, he was back in more of a supporting role on the Braves' staff, going 0-1, 4.38 with 5 saves in 41 games. On August 2nd, he was traded to the Houston Astros for starter Jake Odorizzi in a rare trade between contending teams at the trading deadline.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (2019)
  • NL Games Pitched Leader (2014)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 2 (2019 & 2021)
  • Won one World Series with the Atlanta Braves in 2021

Sources[edit]

Related Sites[edit]