The Dodgers Have No Catching Depth

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Not only did the Dodgers fail to bolster their shaky bullpen down the stretch, they passed up on the opportunity to also add catching depth to their corps this past season which inevitably gave the Dodgers one of the weakest catching duos in the league. Unless the Dodgers are looking to go with A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz next year, Andrew Friedman and company will need to acquire catching help via free agency or trade.

The Dodgers have a rich tradition of excellence in pitching, and their catching counterparts should equally be as productive while protecting home plate. While A.J. Ellis and Clayton Kershaw are a great battery which should endure if the Dodgers bring back Ellis, Ellis is not a viable starter for the Dodgers in a long-term situation. Ellis has had knee surgeries and an ankle sprain which give me concerns over how many games he will able to catch in 2015 and beyond.

There really is a weak catching pipeline within the Dodgers’ farm system, and that is definitely one area which the new GM and farm director need to address in order

A.J. Ellis had a great NLDS offensively, but his regular season was one to forget. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

to come up with long-term goals to help develop catchers within their minor league system.

Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez. Great catchers for both leagues have been highlighted during the 2014 postseason. Molina’s injury during the NLCS surely leveraged the series on the side of the Giants who went on to win the pennant. Without Molina, I felt it would be tough for St. Louis to overcome San Francisco.

Buster Posey is of course the rival M.V.P. catcher who can change the rules both on the diamond and in the rulebook. Posey, the orange and black perennial leader for the Giants, is hitting .271 with 16 hits this postseason.

Salvador Perez is a great young catcher. This is the type of catcher the Dodgers should work on developing in their system instead of looking out of the franchise when additional catching is needed. Even though Perez only has hit .188 this postseason for Kansas City, he was offensively productive during the regular season and hit 17 homeruns and knocked in 70 RBIs in 150 games caught. A solid, everyday catcher who is good defensively as well as productive offensively is what the Dodgers lack out of that position.

Let’s take a look at the catchers already within the Dodgers’ minor league system. There’s going to be quite a few years until Julian Leon is Major League ready.

Rookie- Ogden

12John CannonCRR6′ 0″18005-11-1990ActiveNo
34Julian LeonCRR5′ 11″21501-24-1996ActiveNo
31Hunter RedmanCRR5′ 10″18008-25-1992ActiveNo

Single-A Great Lakes

3Jose CapellanCRR6′ 0″21010-10-1990ActiveNo
33Spencer NavinCRR6′ 1″18508-11-1992ActiveNo

 

Single-A Rancho Cucamonga

25Kyle FarmerCRR6′ 0″20008-17-1990ActiveNo
23Pratt MaynardCLR6′ 0″21511-19-1989ActiveNo
24Tyler OgleCRR5′ 10″21008-09-1990ActiveNo

 

Double-A Tulsa

15J.C. BoscanCRR6′ 2″21512-26-1979ActiveNo
27Chris O’BrienCSR6′ 0″21907-24-1989ActiveNo
10Alberto RosarioCRR5′ 10″19001-10-1987ActiveNo

Triple-A Oklahoma City

29Griff EricksonCSR6′ 4″22003-11-1988ActiveNo
12Johnny MonellCLR6′ 0″21003-27-1986ActiveNo

Dodgers

31Drew ButeraR-R6’1″200Aug 9, 1983
17A.J. EllisR-R6’3″220Apr 9, 1981
26Tim FederowiczR-R5’10”215Aug 5, 1987

If the Dodgers don’t bring back Drew Butera and or A.J. Ellis , the next catchers in line would be Johnny Monell or even Griff Erickson. While Monell picked up the pace a bit after playing in Albuquerque, he hit a combined .238 while in Norfolk and Albuquerque. Erickson is a So Cal native who hit .297 with 7 homeruns in 60 games for the Isotopes last season. Erickson is also a switch-hitter.

Boscan has played just 17 Major League games at 34. Chris O’Brien is also a switch-hitter who caught 116 games for the Lookouts while hitting .266 with 7 homeruns in 2014.

Catcher Alberto Rosario is playing in the Dominican Winter League for the Estrellas de Oriente. Webster Rivas is on the roster of the Gigantes del Cibao. In the Venezuelan league, catcher Josmar Cordero plays for the Cardeales de Lara. Johnny Monell is playing for Alex Cora in the Roberto Clemente League of Puerto Rico.

Tyler Ogle is a 24-year old who has played well for the Dodgers in the minors, and he has hit 28 homeruns over the past three seasons between Rookie level on up.

Kyle Farmer is also a 24-year old backstop who has a .304 batting average since being drafted by the Dodgers in the 8th round of the 2013 draft.

While there is some promising catchers in the system, it doesn’t seem like any of them will make an immediate impact on the Dodgers in 2015, but I expect many to get a look this Spring.

The numbers for last season are ugly. The four Dodger catchers who played in 2014 combined to hit 7 homeruns between three of them (Miguel Olivo only played 8

games behind the dish before being let go after Ear Gate). Olivo was actually the only Dodger catcher to hit above the Mendoza Line at a fiery .217. A.J. Ellis only hit .191/.323/.254 in 93 games, and Drew Butera hit a paltry .188/.267/.288 in 61 games. FedEx played in 23 games and hit .113/.158/.197.

The Dodgers were dead last in the league in batting average amongst catchers (.181). They also ranked last in slugging (.261), OBP (.283), and OPS (.544). They were second to last in homeruns, RBIs and hits. The only category they lead was in walks (73) thanks to A.J.’s signature free passes sprinkled throughout the season.

The defense from the catchers was shaky as well. They were league average in passed balls allowed (12), fifth in caught stealing (38), and fourth in wild pitches (64). The pitch framing is not great by A.J., and he has trouble blocking balls in the dirt. While FedEx is better defensively, he still hasn’t been able to hit consistently at the Major League level although he has shown glimpses of power in Albuquerque.

Totally unacceptable. A championship team has a great catcher. The catcher is the heart of the team, and like Posey could be a captain whom leads his team to said championship. Once upon a time Russell Martin was the heart of the Dodgers.

If not Russell Martin, the Dodgers need someone. Take a look at the free agents available this winter for catchers.

Free agent catchers courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com.

J.P. Arencibia (29)
John Buck (34)
Ryan Doumit (34)
Nick Hundley (31) – $5MM club option
Gerald Laird (35)
Russell Martin (32)
Jeff Mathis (32) – $1.5MM club option
Wil Nieves (36)
A.J. Pierzynski (38)
David Ross (38)
Geovany Soto (32)

The catching depth needs to be reinforced in order to balance the pitching staff. I doubt the Dodgers will go for an older veteran this offseason like A.J. Pierzynski who they could have picked up down the stretch but didn’t.

There’s a lot of holes to fill in the Dodger roster this offseason, but the weak catching should be addressed as a priority. I’d rather not watch Buster Posey lead his team to another World Championship while the Dodgers keep Drew Butera on the roster an entire year.

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