First thing’s first. If you put stock into Albuquerque stats, you’re doing it wrong. There’s no way you can accurately predict major league offensive performance by looking at AAA production. Tim Federowicz has been a name since that 2011 Trayvon Robinson trade that led to so many people upset. FedEx as people have called him, was always touted as a “no bat all glove” type of catcher. Those are valuable pieces, they almost always maintain major league jobs at some level.
Hell, if you’re a catcher, you’re practically guaranteed of having a job in the upper echelon of a major league system (AAA or MLB) until you can’t catch anymore or turn 45. It’s why A.J. Pierzynski has a job on a contending team. It’s why Jose Molina is still playing on a real life major league squad. It’s why Drew Butera, despite still being one of the bottom 10-20 hitters ever has a backup job on the best team in the National League. Federowicz is young, he can play defense, and he catches.
Welcome to a 15 year career, FedEx! Just as long as you don’t hit 93% below the league average. Ah wait a second. That’s exactly what he’s doing right now. He’s been really, really bad, he hasn’t shown the ability to walk (6.2 career BB%), or make contact (28.8 K% in his career), the power has not been great, only a .110 ISO.
However, his defense is his calling card most definitely. In the 84 games he’s played as a regular, his defense has been approximately 7.5 runs above average. Granted he’s been worth 15.6 runs below average, so clearly that’s still a work in progress, but he is a replacement level player because of defense alone. Now, with that said the Dodgers catching depth is the worst in a long, long time, Drew Butera and A.J. Ellis have been offensive black holes, while I realize that FedEx has not shown a propensity to be any better, and we can’t immediately discount how bad his offense has been, not playing everyday can have traumatic effects on a player’s offensive development, even a veteran like Andre Ethier who is having the worst season of his career in very limited playing time can show that sitting on the bench usually means a player’s offense suffers.
And take this how you want to take it, but there might be room for optimism in Fed’s offensive game, he’s hitting .338/.359/.575 away from Albuquerque which is a noted comparison to Coors Field. I’m not saying FedEx is going to OPS at a rate of .900, hit 25 home runs, or drive in 90 runs consistently, however, look at the projections, ZIPS projects him to hit .222/.284/.348.
And lets keep in mind that we can reasonably expect Federowicz to hit better than that because he’s hit reasonably well in the minors, and nobody is as bad as he’s shown. That .632 OPS seems fairly reasonably for a catcher at Federowicz’s level, granted it isn’t all that much better than A.J. Ellis, that line is good for a 79 wRC+, however bear with me.
If you take a 79 wRC+hitter, and combine it with how Federowicz is projected to defend, which is approximately 1.9 runs above average over a 20 game stretch, then you have a player who puts up about 0.3 fWAR every 20 games played. Extrapolate a catcher who puts up 0.3 fWAR every 20 games and assume he plays 130 games a season? Well you have a 1.9/2.0 fWAR catcher. That’s a pretty valuable guy to have, and considering FedEx is a world class defender, I would simply give him starts on the big league club, and jettison Drew Butera who apparently is still a horrible, horrible hitter (.193/.268/.293).
This is assuming Federowicz compiles a 79 wRC+, there may be reason to think he can outperform that, and then we’re really talking about a solid, youngish catcher who can take up AB’s, provide tremendous value on defense, and that’s a hell of a lot better than what the Dodgers have right now in a limited (because of leg injuries) A.J. Ellis, and Drew “my prime is the ability to OPS at .560″ Butera.