A lot has been written about the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ spending spree over the last nine months. Their free agent signings and big name acquisitions via trade have put a white-hot spotlight on Chavez Ravine.
Besides the line-up of All-Star sluggers and young phenoms on the verge of breaking into the show, the Dodgers boast what could be the most potent roster of arms in the National League.
With a rotation anchored by Clayton Kershaw and fellow Cy Young award-winner Zach Greinke, not to mention proven winners Chad Billingsley and the decorated Josh Beckett, little is mentioned about who will be calling games behind the plate for these double-digit game winners.
Last season, the starting catching duties fell to A.J. Ellis despite several attempts by management to avoid that happening. After splitting time between Triple-A and the majors over the past four years, all with the Dodgers, Ellis remained a steady option behind the plate for L.A.
That didn’t keep the Dodgers’ front office from looking for someone better to replace Russell Martin when the former All-Star departed for the New York Yankees in 2011. During their search for Martin’s replacement, however, Ellis has quietly rooted himself as the Dodgers’ starting catcher.
In 2012, his first full season in the big leagues, Ellis not only proved to be an excellent defensive receiver, but he also settled in at the plate and put up some steady numbers at the bottom of the line-up. His .373 OBP was higher than teammate Matt Kemps‘, and his 13 home runs were third-highest on the team. Defensively, Ellis led his pitchers to a combined 3.30 ERA and he managed to throw out 38 percent of base-stealers.
This season, Ellis will have young Tim Federowicz, who the Dodgers obtained in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, backing him up and learning from him the grit and determination it takes to be a major league catcher.
If anyone knows how to persevere, it is A.J. Ellis. He is L.A.’s unquestioned starter, but they feel good with Federowicz waiting patiently in the wings.
It’s ironic that a large amount of the success of the Dodgers and their high-priced pitching staff will be in the hands of a player on the bottom of that list at a mere $2 million a year. That seems to be fine with Ellis, who is content with his role as the Dodgers’ starting catcher.