After toiling in the minors for parts of nine seasons with just a couple cups of coffee to show for it, all the while watching the Dodgers treat the catcher position like it was wholly unimportant (trading Carlos Santana, allowing Joe Torre to run Russell Martin into the ground, and Rod Barajas not only being on the team but starting games as the primary backstop), A.J. Ellis finally got his shot in 2012 to be the man behind the dish.
Given the opportunity, he certainly did not disappoint, posting a 4.1 fWAR and putting forth the most productive season of any Dodger catcher since Martin’s 5.2 fWAR campaign back in 2008. In 133 games and just over 500 plate appearances, A.J. hit .270/.373/.414/.787 with a .341 wOBA. He walked in 13% of his plate appearances while whiffing just over 21% of the time, and he impressively clubbed 13 homers after never hitting more than eight in any professional season, including stops in minor-league launching pads like Albuquerque.
Two important notes though: first, Ellis did have a 12.5 % HR/FB mark, and I expect some regression in that area in 2013, probably between that mark and his 2011 mark of 8.3%. Second, A.J. did backslide with the bat in the second half (.285/.404/.425/.830 pre-break & .252/.336/.401/.737 post-break), which is not all that surprising for a guy in his first full season in the MLB who was never been known as a great hitter.
Generally speaking, defense is difficult to quantify when looking at advanced statistics, and it’s most difficult to quantify for catchers. FanGraphs had Ellis as a slight positive behind the dish, and if you go the route of more traditional numbers, A.J. caught 32.7% of would-be baserunners and allowed eleven passed balls. He struck me as a guy who calls a good game and has a good rapport with the staff, but it’s definitely his offensive production that makes him the best option in an organization and one of the best in the NL.
As he heads into his age-32 season — and in need of a new contract that will see him on the receiving end of a nice raise — if Ellis can improve a bit with the glove, continue to draw walks and get on-base, and keep the power anywhere within range of where it was in 2012, he will once again be a boon for the club.
He’s married to an attractive and talented woman and he told off T.J. Simers. So … win.
He hit .175/.281/.282/.563 with a .251 wOBA in 2012 (with a negative fWAR) and will be replaced in 2013 by Tim Federowicz.
Well … I hope.