The Dodgers need to make some tough decisions very soon. One of the areas they will need to make a call on is which third string catcher will go to Australia. A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz are locked in to be the Dodgers two catchers for 2014. The Dodgers are allowed to bring 5 exempt players to Australia in case there is an injury. A must-have is a third catcher. Miguel Olivo and Drew Butera are battling out for that spot on the plane, but which backstop should the Dodgers choose?
Drew Butera is the likely choice since he is out of options. Miguel Olivo is the only non-roster catcher who remains with the Major League club.
Olivo, the 35-year old catcher, has played in 7 games for the Dodgers this Spring. He is hitting .250 with 4 hits, 3 RBIs, and 4 runs including a bases clearing double. He has four strikeouts and a walk in 16 at-bats. He has been adequate behind the plate, and is known to be a good blocker. With over 12 years as a big leaguer, Olivo has a career batting average of .241 with 145 homeruns in 1,116 games. In 2009 with the Royals (the team the Dodgers beat today in Spring Training) he hit a career-high 23 homeruns. That was 5 years and four teams ago.
Olivo strikes out a lot too. When he was playing regularly he struck out as much as 140 times in 2011 with Seattle. He has struck out 1,048 times in his career and walked just 157 times. Olivo led the Majors with the worst walk-to-strikeout ratio in 2011 with 0.14 walks per strikeout.
Miguel Olivo’s defense is what the Dodgers invited him to Spring Training for. Olivo’s caught stealing rates have been consistently good over his career (34% career CS). Olivo also was involved in that infamous spat with the Marlins when he supposedly “walked out” after demanding to be released last season. The Dodgers picked him up on a minor league deal on January 21, 2014 with an initiation to spring Training. There hasn’t been any Olivo tantrums out of the Dodgers camp to report so far.
Drew Butera is the other option behind the plate if A.J. Ellis or FedEx are injured in Sydney. Butera has played in 8 games, but is only hitting .111 with just one hit in 9 at-bats. He’s struck out 4 times and has walked 3 times. The 30-year old catcher has played in 190 Major League games over parts of 4 seasons. He has a career batting average of .181 with 5 homeruns.
Butera appeared in 5 games for the Dodgers last season. He collected one hit and struck out four times in 7 plate appearances. Butera, who is out of options, would have to clear waivers in order to remain with the Dodgers. Another desperate team who needs catching could pick him up.
Mattingly was asked about the looming roster decisions:
“Ned and his guys have spent a lot of time on it and we kind of go back and forth,” Mattingly said. “We’re just trying to figure out the combination of guys we need, really trying to put together our roster for the season, and then how that works for those two games, and then trying to figure it out for starting in San Diego at the same time.”
If I were to choose the catcher who would be flying to Sydney as a Dodger, it would be Miguel Olivo. Olivo has far more Major League experience than Butera and is arguably the better defensive catcher and offensive catcher. Olivo definitely has more power potential than Butera who only has hit 5 career homeruns.
The Dodgers may risk losing Butera to another team via the waiver wire if they should choose to go with Olivo. Are the Dodgers that desperate to want to hang on to Butera for defensive catching purposes alone? Perhaps, but Olivo is surely the better option and we have seen why this Spring. Olivo works well with pitchers, and although he would have to be willing to take on a back up, third-in-line, going to AAA as soon as we get back to the States role, then choosing the veteran Olivo over Butera is the right choice.