Dodgers: The Starting Catcher Battle is Off to a Quick Start
The Dodgers’ spring slate got off to a quick start offensively as the offense scored seven runs including four runs in the first inning. Both catchers knocked in runs and recorded a big hit.
Spring training for championship contenders are usually less exciting due to most of the roster spots being locked down and very little chances for players to earn spots. This is true for the Dodgers who enter the spring with their rotation all set and almost all of their position and bullpen roster spots also locked in. One of the few positions where there is an open competition is at catcher.
Both Russell Martin and Austin Barnes got off to a quick start offensively as both recorded doubles in the Dodgers’ spring opener. Martin’s double came with the bases loaded and cleared the bases and was his only hit in three at-bats as the designated hitter. Barnes recorded two hits in three at-bats including a double of his own that drove in a run. Neither catcher struck out which was a good sign since pitchers are usually ahead of the hitters at the beginning of the spring games.
Austin Barnes and Russell Martin both entered the spring set to duke it out for the starting catcher role. Unlike in recent seasons where Yasmani Grandal had the lion’s share of starts, this season there could be a 50-50 split for playing time unless Martin or Barnes break out and separate themselves from the pack.
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While Barnes is the younger player and had success at the end of 2017, the Dodgers just need one of the two to play well this season and get the baton to Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith. There is a chance Will Smith could be called upon towards the middle of the season if things go bad to begin the season at the catcher position. Ruiz is unlikely to be ready this season but could be a September call up.
Much like Matt Kemp’s revival a season ago, the Dodgers would welcome another all-star reunion from Russell Martin who was a star in Los Angeles at the beginning of his career along with Matt Kemp. Martin still has the power to hit double digit home runs and unlike Yasmani Grandal in the postseason, he will not hurt the Dodgers defensively. The Dodgers do not need a ton of offense out of Martin but anything he provides at the plate is a bonus.
While the Dodgers lost a lot offensively at catcher with the loss of Yasmani Grandal, they should be pretty close to what they were on defense a season ago with the tandem of Martin and Barnes. Given the state of catching around the league the Dodgers still should rank near the top half of the league for the 2019 season regardless of what Austin Barnes and Russell Martin do at the plate. It will be an interesting battle to watch this spring to see who emerges as the starting catcher to begin the season.