2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Review: Catcher

Rod Barajas

Rod Barajas subscribes to a simple theory: why be anyone but Rod Barajas when people will continue to give me a job regardless of the fact that I’m a pretty mediocre player? Not a bad idea, considering he doesn’t have many other options.

Since arriving in L.A. after being claimed off of waivers from the Mets, Barajas has been consistent. Outside of a hot first week with the Dodgers in 2010 that earned him a starting gig and way too much cash in 2011, Barajas was his usual self, failing to get on-base enough and playing poor defense, but hitting enough home runs to placate the people.

In 2010, he hit .240/.284/.447 with a .310 wOBA; in 2011, he slashed his way to a .230/.287/.430 line with a wOBA of .307. Barajas once again lost time due to injury, playing in just 98 games while amassing a WAR of 1.3 after posting a 0.9 WAR the previous year. He has never been above a 2.1 WAR, and that came way way back in 2005 with Texas. Barajas did up his BB% from 2010 (3.8% to 6.5%) but also struck out considerably more (15.9% to 21.1%). His ISO dipped from a 2010 mark of .208 to .200, and it fell considerably from what he did in his short stint with the Dodgers to close out the 2010 campaign, when it was an astonishingly high .281.

Barajas made it through only 88 games, and at the age of 36 and with what can only be bum knees by this point, there is absolutely no way he should be starting anywhere next season, let alone in a Dodgers uniform. Of course, his inability to get on-base or defend should have that covered, but as a backup, you could do a lot worse. If he were willing to play for dirt cheap, I’d find him to be a fine backup to A.J. Ellis, so long as he truly did serve as a reserve and power off the bench.

A.J. Ellis

Ellis made the trip between Albuquerque and Los Angeles on a number of occasions in 2011, part due to injury and part due to the pure ineptitude of the man who will follow him in this review. A career minor leaguer save for some scraps of time in the bigs, Ellis was also a guy who could do one thing, and one thing really well: get on via the walk. And again kids, that’s a valuable skill to possess.

Though Ellis actually appeared in less games in 2011 than in 2010, he improved his offensive numbers across the board. His OBP (.363/.392), wOBA (.313/.346), SLG% (.324/.376), wRC+ (93/121), WAR (0.5/0.7), and BB% (10.9%/13.6%) all climbed as his catching mates faltered. Ellis also clubbed his first MLB home runs, hitting a pair in the bigs and adding a pair in AAA, serving as the first long-balls for the 30-year-old since 2008.

Ellis is a better defender than any catcher the Dodgers have trotted out since Russell Martin departed, and his ability to actually not make an out as often as others do (career big league OBP of .360, and a minor league mark that never dipped below .382 in a season) would serve the club well.

Ellis is out of options, so he’ll be a part of the club barring anything unforeseen, and Ned Colletti has already come out and said as much. Just how big of a role he’ll have is all that remains to be seen.

Dioner Navarro

What can be said about Dioner Navarro that hasn’t already been written? Living off of one solitary season back in 2008 (and even then, a 2.5 WAR and .330 wOBA are hardly world-shattering numbers), Navarro was picked up during Colletti’s annual dumpster-diving expedition and was signed to a one-year deal, and a guaranteed major league deal at that.

Navarro proved just why he had been residing in said dumpster, putting up an atrocious season in 64 games and 202 plate appearances. Dioner’s career numbers – which are bad enough to begin with – look Ruthian compared with what he “accomplished” in 2011: .193/.276/.324, a wOBA of just .261, -0.1 WAR, a wRC+ of 62, and a K% of over 17%. Add on to that the fact that Navarro was cut for a reported bad attitude and unwillingness to follow directions, when the Dodgers are catcher-thin and Ellis (bless his heart, with all his on-base skills) is the best option, and it’s clear that this was a marriage doomed to fail from the outset.

Tim Federowicz

Acquired from Boston in the ludicrous three-team deal that sent top prospect Trayvon Robinson to Seattle, Federowicz made his major league debut as a September call-up and proceeded to get just sixteen plate appearances over seven games, starting four of those games behind the dish.

Federowicz has been described by Colletti as a gem behind the plate and a work-in-progress with the bat. So basically, Brad Ausmus, except younger and arriving at the expense of a top prospect. Federowicz, as a member of the Red Sox minor league system, displayed solid plate discipline. However, with a line of just .278/.341/.424/.765, and only one season with a wOBA over .334 before arriving in the offense-rich environment of AAA Albuquerque, Federowicz could stand to get a full season in the minors.

FUN FACT: Hector Gimenez started one game at catcher in 2011.

About Greg Zakwin

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