With a payroll over $200 million, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ roster is made up of players who are well-recognized and popular among fans. While Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Juan Uribe and others get plenty of praise, the team also has its share of unsung heroes.
Falling in that category is A.J. Ellis — a favorite of Kershaw’s, but not often included in the conversation of a person’s favorite player. However, Ellis certainly has a fan in director of player personnel Gabe Kapler.
According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Kapler praised Ellis for being an exceptional teammate and person, and called the 33 year old his favorite player:
That’s why he stands out to me. He does a great job providing a platform for his teammates to be heard and appreciated. A.J. checks all of those boxes, and that’s why he’s my favorite player.”
Ellis underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee roughly two weeks into the regular season. After returning and playing in seven games, Ellis sprained his ankle during the celebration of Josh Beckett’s first-career no-hitter and was back on the disabled list.
The injuries affected Ellis at the plate and resulted in him hitting a career-low .191 with three home runs and 25 RBIs. However, he was one of the few bright spots for the Dodgers in the postseason, going 7-for-13 with one home, two RBIs and a 1.49 OPS against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
Although Ellis had a subpar regular season, his overall impact on the clubhouse and pitching staff was praised by general manager Farhan Zaidi. The positive influence may have been something the Dodgers considered when they re-signed the catcher to a one-year deal in the offseason, avoiding arbitration for a second-straight year.
While Ellis returns to the Dodgers, his role in 2015 figures to differ from the one he’s held in years past as he’ll be one part of a platoon behind the plate with Yasmani Grandal; manager Don Mattingly said in mid-January he was unsure how the catching situation would pan out, but also mentioned he doesn’t support a personal catcher system — something to keep an eye on considering the strong relationship between Ellis and Kershaw.
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