Dodgers: Who should be LA’s backup catcher in the postseason?
September 1st is looming for the Dodgers and when that date comes, the postseason roster competition will be at full bore.
The Dodgers are nearing full strength and will get reinforcements on September first. Along with the reinforcements will come Austin Barnes who still has a chance to make the postseason roster. After all, the only reason he was sent down to AAA was that he could be optioned down and Russell Martin could not.
LA’s backup catcher battle is about to become one of the roster competitions to watch in the final month of the season. Sure Barnes was sent down in part because he struggled mightily offensively. It’s not like Russell Martin has hit well either. Martin has a wRC+ of just 71, and Barnes has a 64 wRC+.
One area that Martin does move the needle offensively is getting on base. Martin has an on-base percentage of .327, while Barnes’ OBP is a meager .288. So while neither is going to produce much at the plate, Russell is capable of drawing a walk to at least pass the baton on to a better hitter. He is an AJ Ellis type backup catcher.
While Martin may be more “productive” at the plate, the most important job a backup catcher has is to not hurt the team defensively. This is where Austin Barnes gains the most ground in his run at a postseason roster spot. Barnes has a runs above average rating (RAA) of 8.1 which ranks him 9th among catchers in baseball and first on the Dodgers.
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Russell Martin is second on the club with an RAA of 2.6 and Will Smith is right behind at 2.4. Barnes strong defense remains his calling card and so much so that the team was willing to start him over Yasmani Grandal last October when Yasmani became a liability behind the plate. Austin is still a better defender than Russell Martin.
Versatility wise both catchers have a few tricks up their sleeves. Russell Martin has pitched and played third base while Austin Barnes can play second base and play it pretty well. While neither catcher should be called upon to play another position (or pitch) in the playoffs, it doesn’t hurt to have that option available.
Since joining the OKC Dodgers, Barnes has been better, posting an OPS of .901. While that is inflated in the Pacific Coast League where everybody hits well, it’s still good to see some improvement from Barnes. He also doubled against the Yankees in his lone start before being optioned back to Triple-A.
While the backup catcher role in the postseason doesn’t mean too much with off days every few days, it still is going to get some thought from Dave Roberts on who he wants to backup Will Smith in October. As cool of a story as it would be for Russell Martin to get at-bats in another postseason game, Austin Barnes should be LA’s backup catcher in the postseason.