Dodgers Catching Depth Update


I had a lot of concerns about the Dodgers catching depth at the start of this offseason. Miguel Olivo was the only Dodger catcher to hit over the Mendoza Line last year (.217). You can cite A.J. Ellis‘s leadership behind the plate and his important relationship with Clayton Kershaw and Drew Butera‘s “career year” offensively, but honestly the catching situation was in need of some major (and minor) upgrades this winter.

There has been a multitude of changes to the catching corps within the Dodgers major league and minor league rosters since I wrote that article. Griff Erickson has since left for San Diego along with Tim Federowicz who was traded there. We also saw minor league catcher Johnny Monell move on when he signed a minor league deal with the Mets. Minor league catcher Pratt Maynard retired due to injuries. Drew Butera will be playing for the Angels in 2015, and the Halos will pay the interestingly popular Butera $987,000 next year. He hit .188 last season for the Dodgers in 2014.

The new ownership regime, headed by Andrew Friedman, knows the importance of catching. Although good catching is hard to come by as evident from Ned Colletti’s acquisition of Tim Federowicz at the time, the Dodgers have made some improvements and added depth now at both the major league and minor league level.

Ryan Lavarnway was never destined to don a Dodger cap and was subsequently designated for assignment in December, but the Dodgers did pick up quite a few new backstops since. A day after Lavarnway was DFA’d, the Dodgers traded Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Miguel Rojas and cash considerations to Miami in exchange for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Enrique Hernandez and catcher Austin Barnes.

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  • Yasmani Grandal, who will share time behind the plate for the Dodgers with A.J. Ellis come Opening Day, was acquired on December 18th in the blockbuster and controversial Matt Kemp trade which also included FedEx.

    The next day Lavarnway parted ways and was claimed off waivers by the Cubs.

    Ali Solis is one of many new catchers to join the Dodgers organization this offseason. Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    After the Dodgers acquired Matt Long from the Angels in return for former Dodger backup catcher Drew Butera, they sent Long along with left-handed pitcher Jarret Martin to Milwaukee to acquire catcher Shawn Zarraga.

    The Dodgers also signed catcher Ali Solis six weeks ago in order to further bolster their catching depth.

    This past weekend, the Dodgers signed a couple more minor league catchers. Chris Bianchi and Austin Chubb (who was released by the Nationals on January 6th) were picked up in order to play at the lower minor league levels for the Dodgers.

    Bianchi, a 25-year old catcher, came from the Kansas City organization who sold his contract to the Dodgers. He only played in 10 games for the AA-T-Bones last season, and he hit .143 over 25 plate appearances.

    The Dodgers also picked up yet another catcher named Austin. Austin Chubbs is also 25-years old, and he is out of Florida Southern College. He was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 21st round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He hasn’t played higher than Single-A, and he hit a combined .227 with a homerun between high-A and low-A ball in 2014.

    The Dodgers have also invited non-roster catchers Chris O’Brien, Ali Solis and Shawn Zarraga to Spring Training.

    Overall, I’m pleased with the focus on catching this offseason by the Dodgers. Even though Grandal hasn’t been fully accepted by all Dodger fans because of his past PED use, his excellent pitch framing and promising offense instantly adds strength to the Dodgers major league catching duo. Even though I love A.J. Ellis, and I feel that he is still a perfect battery mate to his buddy Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers could not go another season with such terrible offensive output from their catchers.

    The Dodgers also have a legitimate top catching prospect in their pipeline. Baseball America ranked catcher Julian Leon the 10th best Dodger prospect for 2015. (I ranked Leon higher at 7th giving him extra credit for being a catcher). Even though it’s going to be awhile before we see Leon catching Julio Urias at Dodger Stadium, the mere thought is incredibly exciting.

    I was very worried at the start of the offseason with the Dodgers catching situation, but Friedman and company have made some moves this winter in order to add a catcher with pitch framing skills to the big team and to pick up several minor league catchers to add depth to the farm system. While I don’t see the next Mike Piazza in the mix just yet, I feel a little bit better knowing that the new front office feels that good catching is important. My paranoia about a J.C. Boscan stint on the Dodgers has faded a bit.