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2019 Dodgers Projections: The Catchers

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 15: Home plate umpire Hal Gibson #42 and Dodger catcher Austin Barnes #42 wait for the first pitch during the game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, April 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

In this article series, I’ll be breaking down Baseball-Reference projections, and providing my own projections for the 2019 Dodgers.

Previous Articles: 

Infield: Dodger Infielder Projections: Baseball Reference

Outfield: Dodgers Projections: The Outfield

Russell Martin

I’ve been so excited to write about Russell Martin. I didn’t write for Dodgers Nation when he was a Dodger. I wasn’t even in this particular field when Russell Martin last played for the Dodgers. Let’s take a look at his projections.

 

 

My Thoughts/Projection: These numbers are ball-parking about 100 games for Russell, which I think could be accurate if Austin Barnes has more of a 2018 season instead of 2017. I feel they might be low-balling his OBP. Why? I was surprised to discover some great information about Russell Martin.

In 2013 and 2014 he actually received MVP consideration. Not considerable consideration, but enough to be top 25 both years. This was due to his leadership on the bench, behind the plate, and the fact that Russell Martin gets on base. I hate to sound like Jonah Hill in “Moneyball,” but Russell Martin plainly just gets on base.

Even with an anemic .194 average last year, he got on base .338 of the time. I think he’ll hit somewhere around 220-240, but he’ll still get on base, and that’s where his understated value is. I’m betting on 15 home runs again, too. You can book it.

Austin Barnes

Austin Barnes sure had a tough time of it in 2018. Recency bias makes us all feel like “Sam” can’t hit if he had a cricket bat, but we also forget that in 2017 he all but took Yasmani Grandal’s job. He had a .408 OBP in 2017, which is actually kind of ridiculous. A regression was inevitable in 2018, but nobody thought it would be as bad as it was. Let’s take a look at BREF’s 2019 projection for Austin Barnes.

 

 

My Thoughts/Projection: Ok to be honest, I think this is a good projection. I don’t see his 2017 happening again. To be fair to him, that’s a lot to ask. I do think he has a much better ’19 than ’18, and this is a fair projection. He showed sneaky power in 2017, but I don’t think he’s built for power — which is absolutely okay. 8 home runs would be great from “Sam.” Any OBP over .340 would be fantastic.

Rocky Gale

Our own Clint Evans (@Diamondhoggers) would likely disown me if I didn’t include Rocky Gale. He covered Rocky best in his 2018 Player Review earlier this offseason. Here’s an excerpt relating to Gale’s highlight moment of 2018:

On September 23rd it happened. In the bottom of the 8th inning of a 14-0 Dodgers win at San Diego, Rocky Gale stepped to the plate. It was his first at-bat as a Los Angeles Dodger. Then, he would softly pop out on the infield off Giants’ reliever Kazuhisa Makita.

It’s important to remember that not all players in baseball can have the story of Corey Seager or Cody Bellinger. For every one of them, there is a Rocky Gale that writes his own unique script.

Thank you, Clint.

All told, Gale went 0-2 in 3 games with the Dodgers in 2018. At his absolute peak — with his career triple slash line of .262/.306/.311 in the minors, Rocky might be a classic “AAAA” player in 2019… At best. His catching tools help him keep a job in AAA, but he never quite ‘pops’ in the majors. We’re only likely to see Rocky Gale in the event of a trade or major injury.

The Prospects

I’ve been using the phrase “embarrassment of riches” lately. The Dodgers tend to have them in multiple depths, especially catchers. I won’t be posting any projections from BREF here, I’ll just be touching on their potential to be in The Show.

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-prospects-analyzing-the-minor-league-catchers-tr0864/2018/11/11/”] DODGERS PROSPECTS: ANALYZING THE MINOR LEAGUE CATCHERS[/button]

Keibert Ruiz

Well we didn’t give him away for Kluber, Realmuto, or anyone else for that matter. This is great news. The kid is good behind the plate. He’s scouted to have an average arm, but a quick pop and release. He’s scouted to likely have decent power. He’s a switch hitter who seems to bat for more average on the right and power on the left. He’s definitely the Dodgers future behind the plate. We won’t see him much in 2019 unless there’s an injury to Barnes/Martin. Hopefully we see him in September for the late call ups.

Will Smith

Will Smith doesn’t have the same ceiling as Keibert Ruiz, at least according the scouting reports. He does appear to have more MLB ready ability, though. Should there be an injury to Barnes/Martin, I think we see Will Smith get jiggy with a cup of coffee before Ruiz or even possibly Gale. He’s got gap power, decent contact, but that’s not where his value is. By all accounts, he’s absolutely got the ability and understanding of pitch framing and ‘catching’ on a maturity level that’s MLB ready. He’s a bit older for a prospect, so the possibility of seeing Will Smith in 2019 is very real.

Final Thoughts

Dodger fans readily thought JT Realmuto was coming our way, and he didn’t. He’s definitely a great player–but his skills as a framer aren’t as good as Barnes. Russell Martin has all the experience and knows how to call a game. The catching position is unequivocally a VERY strong position for the Dodgers, and don’t let anyone say otherwise. They’re set up for the future better than any other team at catcher. The reason for this? The catcher impacts the game now more than ever. Not so much at the plate, but behind it. The Dodgers front office understands this, and they’re brilliant for drafting so heavily at this position.

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/the-dodgers-spring-training-and-2019-season-preview-podcast-with-rick-krajewski-episode-41-blue-heaven-podcast/2019/02/13/” type=”big” color=”red”] The Dodgers Spring Training and 2019 Season Preview Podcast – with Rick Krajewski! | Episode 41 | Blue Heaven Podcast[/button]

Written by AJ Gonzalez

AJ is a lifelong Dodgers fan who grew up in California. His whole family are also lifelong Dodgers fans. He lives in Tennessee with his wife, daughter, beagle, and strat.

12 Comments

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  1. Wow, have you been drinking the Kool Aide. Get serious. Martin is 36 years old and has flat stunk up the field for the last two years, and you expect a rebound? Barnes had one fluke year at bat, but his history shows nothing to suggest he can repeat. They are decent catchers, not spectacular, and walking outs at the plate. If they combine for .220 and 12 hrs I’ll be shocked. We may have the worst catching in the NL, if not all of baseball.

    • you might be the fluke, Barnes 18 was the first in his Pro career he struggled like that, you might want to know what you’re speaking about before you go running your mouth

  2. No Koolaid just statistics which everyone in baseball uses. Barnes had always in a full season, except in 2017, put up solid offensive numbers. Martin may or may not come back and hit but he has always had a solid OBP.

    The people that are still lamenting not trading THREE high potential prospects for one good but not GREAT catcher need to hose themselves off as why would a team make a lopsided trade for a position, catcher, when they are possibly the strongest in the league in potential players?

    Get this in your head…The Dodgers architect is Stan Kasten, while I am sure like any good executive he asks for and listens to input from his people it is Kasten’s plan. That plan is the 2019 version of the Atlanta Braves. They will build up the strongest Minor League System possible and bring players up from it because that is the most financially sustainable way to manage a club. It is also with the cap and economic reality the best way to remain competitive long term and make a return on their huge investment in buying the Dodgers.

    They are not going to sign the latest shiny media star that wants insane long term contracts or money. It is not going to happen.

    Reality people…Enjoy the young players. I want to see Ruiz, Smith, Peters, Beaty, Gonsolin and so many others attempting to make an impression this Spring.

    If you read comments around the League most Scouts believe Verdugo is the real deal. Let’s see if they are right.

    What off the radar player do you think might make an impression?

    • Reality. There’s absolutely no guarantee the prospects will live up to the hype. I’d gladly trade some “maybe they’ll be good” prospects for a proven major league talent. We have many prospects. Losing two wouldn’t suddenly cripple the system. You and Kasten seem contented to make the playoffs and hope. Most fans want to strengthen the team and win the ws. Teams like the Yankees and Astros have improved. Have we? Really?

    • txmaster, it is nice to see you understand management is trying to develop a team that will be very good in the present and the future. No boom or bust for this organization. The Angels mortgaged their future with their Pujols and Hamilton acquisitions. The Dodgers are smart enough not to do so.

      • Blue We are all very invested fans of the Dodgers. My approach is to listen to what Team Owners like Kasten and Management like Friedman say and then what they have done to attempt to understand what they will do and what is in reality things they might do.

        I set my expectations accordingly.

        Getting caught up in insane Media Hype about the New Shiny Star like Harper or Machado that want contracts that followers of the team and especially Sports Commentators should KNOW are way out of the parameters the Dodgers are willing to go is not reasonable. You might as well decide you are putting Trout in the Outfield and yes that would make the Team a lot better but this year what are the odds?

        Once we were informed what the asking price for Realmuto was from the Dodgers you should know that is NOT going to happen for a good but not GREAT catcher.

        I thought suggestions for trades for other catchers, pitchers and players were great. We do not know what the teams were asking. And we are getting the idea that Management believe that Barnes will improve and I believe they rightfully think the team pitching is a strength. If you read Tim’s articles you know that there are a lot of very good arms coming up and many may be ready to help in the BP if needed this year.

        Many talk about how they believe the Front office is not very intelligent. I always wonder why they believe that as the litmus test is do you win your division, are you competing for the WS? The answers are yes.

        Just because they have not been able to win the WS many people on this and other blogs want to get rid of the ownership and management. So you want McCourt back?

        Reality check people….

  3. Well, unlike most or some scouts, I am not ready to tab Verdugo as the next Lou Gehrig or Ted Williams. He is still unproven and yes let him EARN the RF spot..not just have handed to him.

    • As I recall Puig played right field. He was definitely no Lou Gehrig or Ted Williams either. How come you left out Babe Ruth?

  4. This is a grim prognosis. Granted, the Marlins wanted too much for Realmuto, but we could have gotten Wilson Ramos. It would be great if Will Smith is ready, looks like a big “if” though. Otherwise, the #8 spot in the order is going to be a black hole.

  5. The numbers you projected for these two coming off of terrible years I’d be amazed and very happy if they were accurate. I don’t think they are for the record but all I can do is hope. The team didn’t need to get Realmuto but they definitely should have been able to acquire a catcher with better numbers last year than Martin. On paper right now this is the weakness that Friedman said didn’t exist for the coming season.

  6. You can call me sarcastic or a pragmatist or anything you like, but until I see real numbers in real time, predictions mean little. AF sees no weakness in our club, yet the vast majority of well-read Dodger fans see a number of them. I tend to follow the Dodger fans on this. I feel the same way about the catching position. Until I see what Martin and Barnes and the other fellows can do, this is a position that sticks out like a sore thumb. Only time will prove me wrong……….. or right. Go Blue!!!

  7. The people reading and commenting on this blog and others are passionate Dodger fans and that is a great thing. All I am saying is I believe the Dodger Ownership and Management want to win the WS as much as we want them to. Mark Walter, Stan Kasten, Magic Johnson also know if they can win it will make the Team even more valuable. It has been reported Mark Walter is a true fan. Kasten has been a baseball guy most of his life.

    Every year and throughout the year Teams go around and talk about who is available with every team it is part of baseball. It is a very small community these guys know each other. I believe they would have loved to trade for Realmuto but not at 3 top guys for a good but not great catcher.

    They must feel Barnes can get back hitting closer to 2017 rather than 2018.The last two years despite having Grandal who “Baseball Prospectus called one of the top 3 catchers in the game and rated above Realmuto…” signed for 18.5 Million with the Brewers, Barnes played the bulk of the Playoffs. Why was that?

    Martin will be a great clubhouse guy and bring more knowledge and experience to the Dodgers and can hopefully help mentor Smith and Ruiz in the Spring.

    The most important task for a catcher are his duties working with the pitchers, pitching coach calling the game and being very good defensively. Barnes does that and Martin has proven he can.

    So we all get to wait and see…This ownership has proven the last two years they want to win as they made trades that most raved about in Darvish and Machado. Neither trade got us there but they certainly attempted to have the Team necessary to win.

    This team will win the NL West and be top contenders to get to the WS. Yes Boston was better last year. But I believe with a Healthy Jansen and Seager the pickups of Kelly and Pollock this team should be more balanced. I am hoping that with new hitting coaches stressing from the start of the year consistent professional at bats will cut down on the Strikeouts that were the bane of this team.

    And yes we have to hope Barnes fixed the very large hole in his swing…

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