Kevan Smith

Kevan Smith heads to Angels on waiver claim, clarifying White Sox catching situation

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USA TODAY

Kevan Smith heads to Angels on waiver claim, clarifying White Sox catching situation

A crowded White Sox catching situation got slightly less so Friday.

Kevan Smith is heading to the Los Angeles Angels, who claimed the 30-year-old catcher off waivers.

Smith was one of three catchers the White Sox had at the end of the 2018 season, along with Omar Narvaez and Welington Castillo. Smith didn't make the Opening Day roster but ended up playing in 52 games, getting far more action than expected thanks to Castillo's 80-game drug suspension.

The White Sox were likely going to face a decision on which of those three catchers to jettison come the spring, with Smith out of options and it being very unlikely they would carry three catchers on the major league roster in 2019. That decision was going to get trickier with catching prospect Seby Zavala needing to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft in December.

And all of this is without mentioning 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins, one of the White Sox 10 highest-ranked prospects, who is perhaps still the favorite to be the team's catcher of the future. He and Zavala will both likely start 2019 at Triple-A Charlotte, and strong showings there could mean one or both of them finding their way to the big leagues before season's end.

So to put it simply, there wasn't room left for Smith.

Quietly, though, Smith was one of the team's better offensive players in 2018, a reflection on the White Sox less-than-ideal team-wide offensive production rather than Smith's statistical excellent. He finished with a .292/.348/.380 slash line in 187 plate appearances, ranking second on the team to Narvaez in batting average and on-base percentage.

Narvaez led the team in those two categories and ranked second to Jose Abreu in OPS, perhaps making him the best choice for the starting job next season. That being said, Castillo is under a multi-million-dollar contract for one more season (with a team option for 2020) and without a suspension taking away half his season, he could finally emerge as the veteran presence the White Sox were hoping he'd be in 2018, helping the young pitching staff evolve into the staff of the future.

Kevan Smith honors Daniel Webb in style with Players' Weekend home run

Kevan Smith honors Daniel Webb in style with Players' Weekend home run

Kevan Smith homered against Tigers pitcher Ryan Carpenter on Saturday and at first it appeared to be just like any other home run.

Except, in multiple ways, it wasn't any ordinary home run.

It came while Smith was wearing "Webby" on the back of his jersey for Players' Weekend. Webby is in honor of former teammate Daniel Webb, who died last October.

It was also Smith's first home run of the season. It came on his first swing of the game.

Smith and Webb were teammates at various levels of the White Sox minor league system beginning in 2012 at Single-A Kannapolis. Both eventually bounced back and forth between playing with the White Sox and Triple-A Charlotte.

The White Sox made a video about the friendship between Smith and Webb, Webb's death and why Smith decided to honor Webb with his Players' Weekend jersey.

"He threw one of the first days in Kannapolis I remember and that was like the first time we actually started talking," Smith said in the video. We both liked hunting and the outdoors and we both became really good buddies after that day."

Smith went on to name his son after Webb. Webb's full name was Robert Wyatt McDaniel Webb. Smith and his wife named their first son Wyatt Daniel.

"I can't wait to tell my son all about it," Smith said after the game in the on-field interview with Jason Benetti and Steve Stone on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast.

The significance of the moment was not lost on his teammates either.

"Just overwhelming when I hit it," Smith said. "It was just system overload. I almost started crying running around the bases. I was wondering where that home run was hiding this year. I mean, if you don't believe that God's up there and Webby is watching down and he's alive and thriving, I don't know how you can't. That was amazing and I almost broke down in the dugout. It was something I'll never forget."

White Sox back to 2017 catching pair as Kevan Smith joins Omar Narvaez while Welington Castillo serves suspension

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USA TODAY

White Sox back to 2017 catching pair as Kevan Smith joins Omar Narvaez while Welington Castillo serves suspension

The 2017 White Sox catching tandem is now the 2018 White Sox catching tandem.

Kevan Smith was brought up from Triple-A Charlotte before Tuesday's doubleheader in Minnesota, and he'll once more team with Omar Narvaez to form the 1-2 catching punch on the South Side for, presumably, the next couple of months while Welington Castillo continues to serve his 80-game suspension for PED use.

Catcher was one of the few positions the White Sox addressed during the offseason, and they brought in Castillo with hopes that he'd be able to help develop a young pitching staff and provide some offense after career years both at and behind the plate. Castillo's two-year contract with an option for a third made for the possibility that he could be the catcher when this rebuilding process yields a planned contender.

But all that went pear shaped with Castillo's suspension, and now the White Sox are back to where they were for the next couple months.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Last season, Smith and Narvaez quietly were one of the more consistent offensive catching pairs in the American League. White Sox catchers led the Junior Circuit with a .279 batting average and a .346 on-base percentage. Power was a different story, of course, and they ranked 21st in baseball with a .381 slugging percentage.

It's unlikely that Smith's return will spark Narvaez to life offensively. Narvaez is in the midst of a miserable season at the dish, entering Tuesday's pair of games with a .179/.281/.238 slash line.

Smith, meanwhile, has played just 30 games at Triple-A thanks to multiple DL stints this year. But his numbers there are better than what Narvaez has managed with the White Sox. Smith brings a .268/.331/.411 line up from Charlotte.

Will Smith and Narvaez again quietly lead AL catchers in batting average and on-base percentage? That seems doubtful.

The main hope with Smith returning is that he'll be able to provide some more defensive consistency — Narvaez has one of the highest passed-balls totals in the game with eight — and do a little of the work Castillo was supposed to do with these young pitchers during the latter's absence.

This wasn't how this catching group was supposed to look coming into this season. But here the White Sox are again.