Dodgers: Catcher Remains the Number One Uncertainty for LA
Coming into the season, one of the biggest question marks surrounding the Dodgers was their catching situation. Nearly one month into the season, that question still remains.
With a lot of expectations on him coming into the season, Austin Barnes has been a disappointment for the Dodgers. In his last fifteen games, Barnes is hitting just .098 and has only four hits. He did have a good offensive game last night so maybe that will get him going.
While Russell Martin is expected to be back soon from injury, this does not alleviate much of the load for Barnes. WIth Martin’s age, his health is bound to be a problem moving forward. Over the last two years, Martin has missed 45 percent of games. He currently has missed 78 percent of games this season, which can only mean a rocky future.
This may be why Barnes has struggled as of late. With Martin being out, Barnes has had to pick up most of the playing time. Prior to the season, he was expected to start four out of every seven games. Now, he’s essentially playing every game.
Rocky Gale has been helping Barnes with the workload but he is proving that he cannot be a serviceable backup. He is currently hitting .143 and has a WAR of -0.2.
The question that remains now is, how soon until we see Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz in the big leagues?
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Smith is probably the most MLB ready, as he’s currently starting in triple-A. Offensively he’s not quite there yet, but there’s no question that defensively he would make an immediate impact. Earlier in spring training, Andrew Freidman had high praise for the catcher, saying that he’ll win multiple Gold Glove awards in his big league career.
On the other side of things, Ruiz is arguably the better overall prospect, but he’s still in double-A. He’ll have to work through triple-A first, and barring major injuries, there likely won’t be any room for him on the big-league roster anytime soon.
Still, the Dodgers have a problem at the catching position. The good news, though, they have plenty of time to figure things out. It’s a long season, and it’s unlikely this slump will continue much longer for Barnes. As for Martin, he’s looking to return this weekend, and hopefully will be able to stay healthy for the remainder of the season.
Having depth is a good problem to have, especially at a position as demanding as a catcher. We’ll likely see one of the two prospects make their debut this season, it’s just a matter of who, and when.