Dodgers 2014 Player Previews: A.J. Ellis, Stalwart Behind The Plate

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2013 stats: 115 games played, .238 batting average, .682 OPS, 10 home runs, 52 RBI.

A.J. Ellis appeared in 18 fewer games in 2013 than he did in 2012, which can largely be explained to his brief stint on the disabled list in late May and into June. At the time, the durable Ellis was nearly recovered from an oblique strain and found himself on the 15-day DL primarily as a means of making a roster spot available for Matt Magill, who needed to make one start for the injured Hyun-Jin Ryu. A nod to the diligent work Ellis goes through to take on the rigors of catching, it was the first time the catcher was placed on the disabled list since 2003.

Unfortunately, along with the decrease in games played were drops in Ellis’ batting average, OBP (.318), slugging (.364), OPS (.682) and WAR (2.3). However, Ellis’ bat came to life in the postseason and he hit .323 and had a 1.013 OPS. While there may have been the drop off in offensive statistics, the catcher’s value defensively and command of  the pitching staff can’t be underestimated. In interviews last season, Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt commended Ellis for being a tireless worker and consistently well-prepared. That preparation helped contribute to the Dodgers posting the best ERA in all of baseball. Along with that, Ellis threw out 44 percent of base runners, which was up from the 33 percent he posted in 2012.

Ellis filed for arbitration over the winter, asking for $4.6 million and the Dodgers countering at $3 million. The two sides came to terms in time to avoid arbitration on a one-year, $3.55 million contract with the prospect of additional salary being earned via incentives. All Fans who attend the Dodgers home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 7 will receive an Ellis bobblehead.

If Spring Training is any indication of what to expect from Ellis in 2014, it doesn’t look promising. Through nine games and 21 at-bats, Ellis is batting a lowly .095, which is a steep decline from last season’s .345 spring average and he has only reached base safely in two games. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Ellis is a veteran player and Spring Training stats don’t matter.

2014 outlook: 2014 should hold much of the same from Ellis. With Tim Federowicz a season older and with Ellis operating on a one-year deal, the 32-year-old catcher will presumably play anywhere from 100 to 120 games. A career .256 hitter, Ellis will likely average in the neighborhood of .260, which on the Dodgers team as currently constituted and when healthy, would be more than sufficient for their expected regular No. 7 or No. 8 hitter. If Ellis is unable to find a balance between his stats in 2012 and 2013, the 2014 season could be his last with the Dodgers, particularly when considering his $3.55 million salary.


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