My favorite position on the field is catcher. Often hidden behind their cage-like mask, the catcher is one of the most if not the most important position players in baseball. A catcher is involved in every pitch, and they are responsible for conveying pitch selection to the pitcher and knowing about every hitter in the league. Often pitchers have favored catchers whom they like to work with, and the relationship between a pitcher and catcher is a very unique and important one within the game. The backstop is also responsible for throwing out runners, fielding their position, and blocking and protecting home plate. If that wasn’t enough responsibility, catchers in the Majors are even more valuable if they can also swing the bat well. Many times it’s very rare to find both a defensively strong catcher who is also offensively adept.
Good catchers have been hard to find in the Majors in recent years. After Russell Martin suffered a bizarre hip injury and signed with the Yankees, the Dodgers catching situation has been problematic. We saw the likes of Big Rod who was a weak defensive catcher, and he couldn’t throw out runners to save his life. His occasional homerun was his upside. We also suffered through a second stint from Dioner Navarro who was cut from the team after not preparing adequately and overall being lousy. We had called for the Dodgers to allow A.J. Ellis the chance to play more, and with Big Rod’s departure to Pittsburgh, we will see Ellis have his opportunity to be the prominent catcher this season.
Let’s take a look at how the Dodgers catching will look in 2012:
.262 BA, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 37 SO, 28 BB, 87 games, 206 at bats
A.J. Ellis, the 30-year old right hand hitting catcher, will finally get to be the primary backstop for the Dodgers in 2012 after bouncing back and forth between AAA and the big team since 2008. Rod Barajas signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. Ellis came up for a cup of coffee in 2008. He only had three plate appearances in 4 games scoring 1 run. In 2009 he played mostly for the Albuquerque Isotopes again, and briefly made a big league appearance in 8 games collecting a lone RBI single in the final game of the season vs. the Rockies on October 4th. In 2010 he played in 44 games and had 128 plate appearances and hit .278 with 30 hits and 16 RBI after Brad Ausmus was disabled. Last season he played in 31 games with 103 at bats hitting .271 with 23 hits, and 11 RBI. He hit his first homerun off Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals on August 4th. Ellis doesn’t hit a lot of homeruns, but he is a good defensive catcher. Ellis has thrown out 27 percent of opposing basestealers in his career with one career error and 3 career passed balls in 568 innings behind the plate.
.225 BA, 16 HR, 119 RBI, 257 SO, 133 BB, 432 games, 1360 at bats
The Dodgers signed Matt Treanor, a 35-year old veteran with 8 seasons in the Majors, to a 1-year deal this offseason. Hopefully he will be used just as a back-up for Ellis since Treanor can’t hit at all. Treanor was born in Garden Grove, California and has played with the Marlins, Tigers, Rangers, and Royals. Treanor actually spent 10 years in the minor leagues including 7 years in single A ball. His strength is in his defensive skills behind the plate. He has thrown out 22.1% of basestealers in his career. In 2006 he threw out 41.9% with the Marlins (13 of 31).
.154 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 4 SO, 2 BB, 7 games, 13 at bats
FedEx, the 24-year old catcher, will most likely start in AAA this season, but we may see him brought up later in the season barring an injury to Treanor or Ellis. FedEx has been in the Red Sox farm system since 2008 where he has steadily been promoted from low A ball in 2008 up through AA for the Red Sox last season. He threw out 37% of basestealers in AA for the Red Sox. After the Dodgers acquired him in the three-way trade that sent Trayvon Robinson to the Mariners, he played in AAA where he hit .325 with 6 homeruns and 17 RBI in 25 games. He only threw out 22% of basestealers once with Albuquerque, before coming up very briefly for the Dodgers at the tail end of the 2011 season when rosters expanded. He had 2 hits in 13 at bats. The 5’11″ 200 lb. catcher is aggressive at the plate, and is said to hit a lot of base hits.
Do you think we have improved our catching staff for 2012? Is defensive talent more important than offensive ability when it comes to a catcher? Tell us what you think.
We will continue looking at how the 2012 roster will look in future posts.