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Should the Dodgers Bat A.J. Ellis at the Top of the Lineup?


Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will get his chance to show us what he’s got over an entire season. The 30-year old backstop will be the Dodgers starting catcher in 2012. Over the last couple of years we’ve been aware that A.J. Ellis was our only good option at catcher since the organization has been stripped of all their depth due to risky trades, injuries, and free agency. Once stocked with catching depth, the cupboard has been left bare, so to speak. Prospects Carlos Santana, and Lucas May were shipped off to other teams in trade deadline moves. Then there was the bizarre injury to Russell Martin which left him with a broken hip, and add to that his declining numbers, the Dodgers were forced to make the tough decision to non-tender Martin. Rod Barajas left for free agency, and now it’s time for A.J. Ellis to step up.

The Dodgers do have prospect Tim Federowicz (Fedex) starting the season in Albuquerque. He won’t be ready for the bigs for another year or two though. However A.J. Ellis might be just what the Dodgers need. With his impressive plate discipline and high on base skills, should the Dodgers bat A.J. Ellis at the top of the lineup?

A.J. Ellis is 30-years old, originally from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The right handed hitting Catcher graduated from Paul Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. He was a Baseball Letterman and a two time first team all-city selection. While attending Austin Peay University, Ellis became only the fifth player in team history to earn Ohio Valley Conference first team honors in all four seasons. 

He batted .351, and he is the all time leader in hits for Austin Peay with 263. Ellis was drafted in the 18th round of the 2003 draft by the Dodgers. From 2003-2009, Ellis played for the South Georgia Whales, Vero Beach Dodgers, Double-A Jacksonville Suns, Triple-A Las Vegas 51’s, and the Albuquerque Isotopes. Ellis made his first MLB appearance in 2008 for the Dodgers when he pinch ran for Normar Garciappara. He also scored his first run on a home run from then starter Russell Martin. He recorded his first big league hit in the last game of the season in 2009.

Ellis played in only 9 games in 2009, but got his first chunk of real playing time in 2010, being called up when Russell Martin and Brad Ausmus were injured. At first Ellis struggled, like most young ballplayers do in their first call-up. Ellis made the necessary adjustments and refined his approach, and he batted .417 that September. He finished the 2010 season playing in 44 games, batting .278 with an OBP of .363 but with no home runs.

The next year in 2011, A.J. got into 31 games with the big club. Ellis was very solid, batting .271, posting a .392 OBP, and hitting his first two home runs. What Ellis is most adept at is getting on base. He has always had great plate discipline. He has had a career .280 average, and a .406 OBP over nine minor league seasons. Most seasons A.J. had more walks than strikeouts. Overall he finished with 336 walks and 283 whiffs. While with the Dodgers in 2010, he had 14 walks, and 18 whiffs, in 2011 he finished with 14 walks and only 16 whiffs. Often times we wondered why he wasn’t playing during last year while Big Rod was hurt and Navarro was awful. Generally when building a Baseball Lineup, you want to put the high On-Base guys at the top of the order. Since A.J. Ellis is so good at getting on base, why don’t the Dodgers try batting him second?

The more base runners on base in front of Bison, the better. Ellis is also a solid catcher defensively. He has only made one error and committed three passed balls in his major league career. Ellis has also thrown out runners at a 28% clip since 2010. GM Ned Colletti has said that he sees Ellis playing in about 100 games or so. We’re finally going to see what A.J. Ellis can really do in 2012, and that could be just what the Dodgers need behind the plate.