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.

DODGERS PROSPECTS: ANALYZING THE MINOR LEAGUE CATCHERS

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.

The Dodgers Spring Training and 2019 Season Preview Podcast – with Rick Krajewski! | Episode 41 | Blue Heaven Podcast