The LA Angels and Billy Eppler have benefitted greatly from making waiver claims to turn into studs for the team. Just a few years back Martin Maldonado was an offseason claim turned Gold Glove winner. And now, Eppler has struck again.
Kevan Smith is the next LA Angels starting catcher. Take that to the bank. He was added to the team earlier this week, and after a deeper look into the veteran’s career, he has what it takes to be the Halos’ everyday catcher come 2019.
Smith does not even have 500 plate appearances in his career. His career high in games played is 87, which he hit in 2017. He only played 7 games in 2016, so we’re mostly going to be looking at his past two seasons when discussing the possibility of him breaking out with the LA Angels this season.
Over those two seasons, Smith had a slash line of .286/.324/.385. He does not bring much to offer in terms of power (only 23 doubles and 7 home runs) but is a consistent threat to get on base. If he qualified for league leaders in 2018, his .292 average would have ranked first amongst all catchers and would have tied with Andrelton Simmons as the 25th best average in the MLB.
Obviously playing as an everyday backstop would diminish those stats to an extent, but it is obvious Smith has shown the talent to at least have a shot as an everyday catcher. His defense is where he needs to put the work in, especially considering the Angels’ long history of prioritizing defensive-minded catchers. While he is a solid defender in terms of blocking and pitch-calling, he is no threat at all to potential base stealers. He has thrown out 14% of base-stealers for his career, while the MLB average has sat around 27% since his debut. That is quite the dropoff from Maldonado, who threw out 49% of those who dared running on him.
While he is no defensive wizard like Maldonado, Smith can hit with the best of them. If Brad Ausmus decides to emphasize offense at all positions, Smith has a good chance of becoming the Angels’ starting catcher. And if that happens, there is no limit for Kevan Smith in Anaheim.