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Dodgers: Framing the Options at Catcher if Austin Barnes Lands on IL

Who the Dodgers could call-up if Austin Barnes lands on the IL

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 23: Will Smith #67 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on against the Chicago White Sox on February 23, 2019 at Camelback Ranch in Glendale Arizona. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Dodgers may be in need of a catcher after Austin Barnes left Sunday’s game with an injury. The good news is they have multiple players to chose from, including two top prospects. Who they call up likely depends on the severity of Barnes’ injury.

If Barnes is healthy enough to play on Monday, they probably won’t call anyone up, but if he does miss some time, here’s how they could fill the spot.

If Barnes’ injury is minor

If it’s determined that Barnes won’t be out for long, the Dodgers will likely call up Rocky Gale to back up Russell Martin until Barnes returns. The 31-year-old catcher has already been shuttled between the majors and triple-A multiple times. In 15 major league plate appearances this year, Gale is hitting .133/.133/.133 and doesn’t have the upside to do much better as he is a career .108/.108/.189 hitter in 37 plate appearances. If they just want a catcher to make one or two starts and fill a roster spot, Gale is their guy.

If Barnes Misses a Decent Amount of Time

If Barnes is out for a while, the Dodgers would probably call up Will Smith, one of their highly-regarded prospects. The 24-year-old Smith has the potential to run away with the starting job if he gets the chance. Currently, at triple-A, he is slashing .290/.404/.551 with 8 home runs in 166 plate appearances. He is also one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues with the athleticism and versatility to play multiple positions. He has had success at every level of the minor leagues so far and doesn’t have much left to prove at triple-A.

Smith would need to be added to the 40-man roster so they likely won’t call him up to play for a week. If he isn’t called up to replace Barnes, you should still expect to see him at some point this season.

The Unlikely but High-Upside Move

If the Dodgers want to be really fancy, they could call up top-prospect Keibert Ruiz.  Ruiz, 20, is a switch-hitter and currently hitting .277/.348/.340 in 158 plate appearances for double-A Tulsa. Why he’s on this list is because he is the third-best catching prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, and he is already on the 40-man roster. The chances this move happens is incredibly minuscule, but crazier things have happened. If they did decide to call him up, it wouldn’t be as a backup so it would only be if Barnes misses a large amount of time.

Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

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  1. The Dodgers Need both catchers(Barnes and Martin) healthy to split the 162-game season. We already have seen what happens when Barnes had to shoulder the catcher position by himself, his hitting went south and I’m sure the same will happen to Martin. Martin and Barnes need to alternate game-by-game to be effective! Even if the Barnes injury is not serious, I say bring-up Will Smith(first) and see what the kid can do. If Smith fails, bring up Keibert Ruiz, if Ruiz fails and Barnes is still hurt bring up Connor Wong or you might need to trade for a catcher.

    • To bring up Rocky Gale is an insult : why put a 133 hitter out on the field when, as Robin M states, we could add Ruiz or Smith. Granted, they have not proven they can play at the top level, but then again, Gale has shown he cannot play at the top level. I cannot think of a more perfect time to bring in some new players and give them a chance : we are in first place in our division, and we have been playing well. We have already incorporated weak hitters into our lineup this season; i.e. CT3, Kiki, etc. Let youth be served!!! Go Blue!!!

  2. Folks, as I post, Will Smith has been called up and will be in uniform for today’s game. A corresponding move will be made to add him to the 40 man roster. How long Smith stays up here depends, I guess on the severity of Barnes’s groin injury.

    • Thankfully, the FO finally realized what those of us on this blog have been talking about : we have catchers in the minors who are far better than Rocky Road Gale!!!! Its time to give Smith, Ruiz and Wong a chance before they rot on the vine. Go Blue!!!!

  3. How was Barnes injured on the HBP? Was it a strain when avoiding the pitch? I hope he didn’t get hit in the family jewels.

  4. I assumed they were bringing Gale up earlier to save on Smith’s options? Very glad they are bringing up Smith. So far he has had a decent bat but reportedly is excellent defensively, as Blake’s article states.
    Thanks for the news PaulDodgerFan on Smith’s call up…If I were them I would DFA Gale to clear room on the 40 man roster as they have some great catchers in the pipeline as Robin stated. And I highly doubt anyone will pick Gale up…Lots of no-hit Defensive catchers out there looking for a job.

    • Exactly right on, tmaxter. As you can see, Dodgers do not need to carry defense only players, even at the catching, since right now a few others here on the club are struggling. On another blog it was reported that Kike Hernandez is pretty much playing his way out of an every day starter with his renewed struggles against RHP. Well, as that blog states do you believe, as I do, that just maybe Kike is best suited as a super utility guy and not an every day player?

    • Tmaxster, you are absolutely correct!!!! Lets bring up those young catchers and see if they have a futrue. Rocky Gale’s future is behind him!!!! The train has left the station! Go Blue!!!

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