After winning the everyday catcher position back in 2012, A.J. Ellis has had his ups and downs as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ellis had solid seasons in 2012 and 2013, but last season was derailed by a series of injuries, including a fluke ankle sprain during the celebration of Josh Beckett’s no hitter.
Ellis hit a scant .191 with three home runs and 25 RBIs in 93 games, which was his lowest total since 2011. However, in the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the 33 year old sprung to life, hitting .538/.647/.846 with one home run, one double and four walks.
Although the offensive numbers may not impress many, Ellis is praised for his impeccable work ethic and his dedication to studying the game. In the offseason, the Dodgers brought in Yasamni Grandal, a catcher known for his elite pitch framing; a skill that Ellis is looking to improve for the upcoming season.
Ellis discussed some of the adjustments he’s made in effort to improve in the area Grandal excels in, via Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
That seems to be the area where I’ve lost some pitches, based on what the numbers tell us,” Ellis said. “I’m trying to maybe catch farther out in front of me, when in the past maybe I was catching the ball a little deeper. Maybe I can catch it before it leaves the zone.
Statistically, Ellis ranks as one of the worst pitch framers in the league, while Grandal is one of the best. Both catcher possess a unique set of skills and will surely learn plenty from each other throughout the year.
This is the second time is as many years where Ellis has adjusted behind the plate. After returning from meniscus surgery last season, he made a change to his catching stance with hopes of better preserving his knees. As for his overall health, Ellis said it’s much improved:
Health-wise, it’s the best I’ve felt before my season in 2012,” Ellis said. “It’s as strong as I’ve felt, which is a great thing.”
Assuming the Dodgers utilize some form of a platoon behind the plate, it should help Ellis and Grandal remain fresh down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs. The duo will also give manager Don Mattingly added flexibility with his lineup dependent on what pitcher they’re facing.
Yasmani Grandal Learning From A.J. Ellis