The Winter Meetings of 2018 have passed and the Dodgers still haven’t addressed the need for another catcher. With the likely departure of starter Yasmani Grandal as a free agent, there is big void to fill. Austin Barnes is the only catcher on the 40 man roster that is almost guaranteed a spot on Dodgers roster in 2019. Given Barnes’ had an awful 2018 on the offensive side, the Dodgers probably should be looking for a new starting catcher.
I ran a poll for some preferences from Twitter:
Who do you THINK will be the Dodgers’ catcher in 2019 along with Barnes?
— Tim Rogers (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) December 16, 2018
Below is a list of candidates that have rumored about or ones that might be a good fit. Internal candidates within the Dodgers’ system are included. Something to note, some of the candidates have some poor defensive numbers. I wonder if the Dodger organization could help them.
J.T. Realmuto – Marlins
Realmuto has been the favored choice for many fans and it seems, also, for the Dodgers. There have been rumors about the Dodgers wanting Realmuto since the season ended. I wrote about some trade possibilities for him early in November. By Wins Above Replacement (WAR) he was the best catcher in baseball (Grandal was 2nd).
Strengths: excellent athlete, continued improvement, throws out base stealers well
Weaknesses: pitch framing, hitting against left-handed pitching
Other Starting Candidates
Tucker Barnhart – Reds
Barnhart is a switch-hitter who has been a solid player for the Reds. The gave him a 4 year/$16M contract which is a very affordable contract for the Dodgers as they wouldn’t have to shuffle too much salary. He is elite at keeping pitches from being passed balls or wild pitches. His numbers at the plate aren’t very special his home and road splits are not encouraging. Still, he’s a better option to start than the 2018 version of Austin Barnes.
Strengths: handling balls in the dirt, throws well, durable
Weaknesses: home/road splits, pitch framing
Cervelli is probably the next guy, after Realmuto, that I’d want. He is still a legitimate starter and had a nice 2018 season with the Pirates. He used to be a very good pitch framer but those numbers have fallen off. All around, he’s solid and would be a good starter until either Barnes or some prospects take the job away. He becomes a free agent after the 2019 season.
Strengths: some pop, solid defensive player
Weaknesses: only one full healthy season, pitch framing slipping
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A.J. Ellis – Padres
The old friend had a decent season for the Padres in limited playing time. He’s a backup option so that would mean full-time play for Austin Barnes. He still hits lefties decent enough and plenty of fans would love to have him back but it is probably a long shot.
Strengths: good game caller, hits lefty pitching
Weaknesses: pitch framing, part timer only
Jonathan Lucroy – A’s
Less than 3 years ago he was one of the top catchers in baseball. He was excellent on offense and defense. It is a mystery why he’s become mediocre. He’s an interesting option and was the full-time catcher for a very good A’s team. He would be a bounce back candidate.
Strengths: durable, used to be excellent and only 32
Weaknesses: big drop offs all around
Nick Hundley – Giants
I have him on the list only because he popped up in some rumors. His scuffle with Yasiel Puig would make him someone that makes it, at the least, interesting. He does have some pop and had a .508 slugging percentage against left handers. His defensive numbers were not that good so I’m skeptical if he’d be much of a help.
Strengths: hits lefties well
Weaknesses: defensive numbers
Martin Maldonado – Astros
Maldonado is an excellent thrower who helps control the running game. He used to keep his passed ball and wild pitches against down but they’ve gone up quite a bit in the last two years. It might be that he was over worked. The last two seasons he played a lot more than previously.
Strengths: a little pop, controls running game
Weaknesses: big drop in balls getting away, doesn’t get on base much
Doubtful But You Never Know
Yasmani Grandal – Dodgers
I am including Grandal because he is a good player and the Dodgers should keep him in mind. According to Jon Morosi:
“The Dodgers remain open to bringing back Grandal on a one-year contract, one source said Sunday evening”
If the market is weak for Grandal maybe he does come back for one year and go into free agency after 2019 with no Qualifying Offer attachments.
Strengths: pitch framing, power, gets walked
Weaknesses: yips catching the ball, struggles with hitting lefties
In House Options
If Austin Barnes would have shown any life at the plate, this would be a much easier issue to address. He was a top 10 catcher in 2017 and looked to be the catcher for the near future. He did enter 2018 with some arm issues in Spring Training so I am hoping that the off-season helps bring him around again.
Strengths: pitch framing, blocks well, takes a walk
Weaknesses: hitting, doesn’t throw particularly well
I’m adding Farmer to explain why he actually isn’t an option other than as an emergency catcher. Although he spent a lot of time in AAA he only caught in 29 games. Rocky Gale got most of the repetitions. When he was with the Dodgers he only caught one inning in an emergency. Personally, I hope he can sway the Dodgers to give him more behind the plate in Spring Training. He is one of the best people in the Dodger organization.
Gale is nice organizational depth and would need a big Spring Training to earn playing time. If the Dodgers won’t give him a chance to play I hope they move him to another organization. I would like to see him on a major league roster.
Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith
Asked #Dodgers Andrew Friedman about likely big-league arrivals for Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz. Said he expects Smith to "help us win games at some point in 2019." For Ruiz, 2020 is a good bet but that doesn't mean it can't happen sooner.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) December 11, 2018
Neither is ready but it looks like their future with the Dodgers could even begin in 2019. I wrote about the main catching prospects in the organization earlier last month. I doubt that their future potential will be factored into any of the decisions they make in 2019 but it does seem they are looking for mostly one year options.
More Offense Details
The following table has their AVG/OBP/SLG slash lines for their overall numbers along with how they did verses lefties, righties and home and road splits.
|Player||vs LHP||vs RHP||Home||Road|
Selected Defensive Statistics
Credits and Abbreviations
SB – Stolen bases against the catcher
CS – number of runners caught stealing
PB – number of passed balls against the catcher
WP – number of wild pitches thrown by the pitcher while catching
FR – number of runs saved by pitch framing (Framing Runs)
FRAA – total number of runs saved by factoring in framing, blocking and throwing along with other adjustments (Fielding Runs Above Average)
Already, candidates like Wilson Ramos and Yan Gomes are no longer available. It looks like the Dodgers are trying to see if they can trade for J.T, Realmuto, leaving the other players listed as fallbacks. If they can’t get Realmuto, then I’d like to see either Grandal or Cervelli as the starting catcher in 2019.
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