Catcher Prospects! or Catcher Prospects ?

One position where the Dodgers are looking for improvement is in catcher.  I have read some who are not happy about who of Maldonado, Wieters, Lucroy, Vogt, Joseph, Mesoraco, Ellis, or Butera, Friedman will select from.  Most of the naysayers did not want Grandal back but have no recommendation for a replacement except JT Realmuto.  If it were only that easy just to want something.  The Fish are looking for a king’s ransom starting with Cody Bellinger, and Friedman is saying NO. I got to thinking…What’s happened to all the good catchers?  In 2018, there were 117 catchers that played, but only 6 that qualified for the batting title…Realmuto, Molina, Contreras, Barnhart, Grandal, Perez.  The Dodgers seem inclined to go with Austin Barnes rather than include Cody Bellinger in a trade for the #1 catcher in MLB, JT Realmuto.  Who can blame them? The Dodgers seem to want to be patient while waiting for one of their two young catching phenoms to make it to the ML.  Some think that one or both might be ready this year, but I have my doubts.  Keibert Ruiz is the #3 catcher prospect per MLB Pipeline, while Will D. Smith is the #8 catcher prospect.  As a 19-year-old in AA, Ruiz showed very good bat to ball skills.  He hit .268/.328/.401/.728.  His skill with the bat was shown through the sparse 33 K for the year.  But his impatience at the plate was shown in his scant 26 BB.  As a 23-year-old in AA, Smith hit a very strong .264/.358/.532/.890.  He earned a promotion to AAA but did not fare as well there batting .138/.206/.218/.425.  Smith is going to need to show he can hit AAA pitching. Will he hit at AAA?  I believe he will.  Will Ruiz learn a little more plate discipline?  Will he learn better ball transfer to speed his throw to 2B?  Again, I think he will.  More importantly Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis believe it.  Back to where have all the great catchers gone, does being rated in the top ten catchers give an idea as to how good they turn out? I got to thinking about previous top catcher prospects and where they are today.  I have been a Carson Kelly fan for several years and when he went to AZ I remembered a couple years back when Francisco Mejia was #1, Carson #2, and Chance Cisco #3.  All three have made it to the Show but none have made it as a starting catcher.  Former #3 (2016), #2 (2018), and #1 (2017) Francisco Mejia may not be a catcher much longer, perhaps moving to the OF.  It appears that both Kelly and Cisco will get their shot at starting catcher for Arizona and Baltimore respectively this year. Will they seize that opportunity? Before Keibert Ruiz appeared as #5 (2017), #3 (2018), and Will D. Smith as #8 (2018), the Dodgers had one previous catcher make the top 10 since 2011; Austin Barnes #9 (2015) and #8 (2016).  Yasmani Grandal made the list in 2011, but while he was a Reds prospect. The prospect who has appeared on the most catcher top ten lists is starting Phillies catcher, Jorge Alfaro.  Yes, that Jorge Alfaro that was included in the Cole Hamels to Texas trade.  Alfaro was included in six consecutive top ten lists from 2012 thru 2017, including twice as #1 (2015 & 2016).  NYY starting catcher Gary Sanchez made 5 consecutive top ten lists from 2011 thru 2015, and Toronto rookie catcher Reese McGuire was named on 4 consecutive top ten lists from 2013 thru 2016.  McGuire was called up by Toronto this year for his MLB debut.  McGuire was listed once as a Pirate and three times as a Blue Jay.  ChiSox catcher prospect Zach Collins has been on the last three lists with a chance to make his 4thwhich will be unveiled in January. Toronto had four different players named on the list on four consecutive years:  Max Pentecost (2015), Reese McGuire (2016), Hagen Danner (2017), and Danny Jansen (2018). Pentecost was also on the 2014 list. Before the Dodgers had two catchers on the same list in 2018 with Ruiz and Smith, there were 3 other years where a single team had two catchers: Phillies – 2016– Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, currently the Phillies top two catchers on their ML roster.  Okay the only two on their 40 man roster.Phillies – 2012– Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle – Neither player has ever caught a ML game.  Joseph made it to the Show but as a 1B/DH.  Valle never got the call.Reds – 2011– Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal – Mesoraco has been a starting catcher for the Reds and Grandal has been the Dodgers starting catcher since 2015 and is considered the best framer in MLB.  He was #2 MLB catcher in 2018 using WAR as the criterion (behind Realmuto).  It appears that Dodger fans and MLB GM’s are not as enthused. Catchers who have been considered starting catchers in the past 8 years and were listed somewhere on the top ten catcher’s list. Austin Barnes (LAD)Yasmani Grandal (LAD)Wilson Contreras (Cubs)Gary Sanchez (NYY)Austin Hedges (SD)Blake Swihart (Boston)Kevin Plawecki (NYM)Travis d’Arnaud (NYM)Mike Zunino (Rays)Devin Mesoraco (Reds)Yasmani Grandal Kyle Schwarber was on the list in 2014 but he is not a ML catcher.  Derek Norris, Wilin Rosario, Christian Betancourt, were all productive catchers at the ML level. The Mets were so enamored with their two top 10 catcher prospects, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, that they signed Wilson Ramos to a two year $19MM contract.  Ramos gets 2 years at $19MM while Grandal turned down $17.9MM for one year.  This does not look like a good off-season for Yasmani.Catchers are probably the most difficult position to project.  It is a defensive position first, but most fans look at the offensive numbers while evaluating.  Many on the current top ten are defense first catchers, and their offensive skills are lacking.  The one catcher that I would look at and think is a cannot miss is Joey Bart.  He will move quickly and begin to press Buster Posey by the start of 2020.  He has all the tools.  Does any of this have any basis for determining whether Ruiz or Smith will become productive ML catchers much less All Stars?  Absolutely…Not. I think Smith falls into the defense first mold, and hopefully his offense will come along.  But IMO he is closest to becoming a suitable backup catcher.  Ruiz has outstanding hand/eye coordination for bat to ball skills, but because of his age and experience he has not yet fully matured defensively.  Even with his outstanding offensive skills, he is still lacking the full development as he doesn’t yet have the power to go along with the hand/eye coordination.  In his recent AFL season, in 56 PA, he had 14 hits for a .286 BA.  However, of the 14 hits, 13 were singles and 1 was a double.  I do think those slugging numbers will improve, because in those same 56 PA he walked 6 times and struck outTWICE.  That was against some of the best pitching in MiLB.  Ruiz has all the baseball skills to rise to AS level, but he needs to physically mature and improve his defense with game experience. This was just an exercise to show that just because one is considered a top catcher prospect, does not always equate into a top ML catcher.  So for those thinking that Ruiz and Smith will become starters in 2020 (much less productive in 2019) that might be just a tad optimistic.  They will become ML catchers, but when and how good is still to be determined.  I guess we will find out sometime within the next 6 weeks what Andrew Friedman thinks. 

This article has 57 Comments

  1. MLB TRADE RUMORS reports that the Dodgers may be inclined to include May and either Smith or Ruiz for Realmuto, but that the Marlins want another player that the Dodgers are loathe to give up. That has to be Lux or Verdugo. They also say that Grandal is a possibility on a one-year deal, but I don’t see it. The market is changing and I think Grandal can get a 2 or 3 year deal at $10 mil per year. He won’t have to settle for a one year deal… and I believe everything MLBtradeRumors.com says, because they have never been wrong in the history of the world. 😉

    This market is slow to develop because everyone has figured out that handing out big deals to free agents is frequently the Highway to Hell, not the Road to Paradise! Last years best free agent who was arguably the MVP (but wasn’t even in the final 3, but that’s another issue), signed for just $110 million. This market is going to develop slowly.

    1. My guess is the player the team is loathe to give up is Bellinger.
      *
      Once again, I say “Just Say No” to Realmuto. I’m not as enamored with him as others are.

    2. I would rather have Grandal back for one year than lose multiple top prospects for Realmuto.
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      Who are our “top prospects”? Verdugo, Ruiz, Lux, May, Smith, possibly Gonsolin
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      I personally would do Verdugo & Gonsolin for Realmuto but that’s because I’m not as high on Verdugo as others.
      Verdugo, Gonsolin, & Wong?

  2. One more stat on Will Smith…he had 72 PAs in the 2017 AZ Fall League and had a line of .371 .452 .565 1.017.
    .
    I would like to see AJ Ellis start the 2019 season as the backup catcher and then let Smith replace him mid-season. Winning teams are strong defensively up the middle and have good pitching. Smith and Barnes are strong defensive catchers and could be the long term catcher for the Dodgers. Both can run as well.
    .
    Speaking of defense, I would like to pry Kevin Kiermaier from the Rays. I would start the conversation with Taylor and Puig and also try to make it a 3 team trade by offering Muncy, White, Rios, and Santana for Mitch Haniger.
    .
    I would then offer Verdugo and Ruiz for Kluber or Syndergaard.
    .
    Next trade is Wood and Alexander to Reds for Raisel Iglesias . Freidman can finesse the players needed to make the trade. Maybe the Dodgers could trade Hill to the Yanks for a prospect that could be then also go to the Reds.

    1. I would like to see Smith get a full year of development in the minor leagues. I’m not sure how useful sitting on the bench would be for him in the majors.
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      If we get a one-year stopgap to pair with Barnes, we can bring up Smith in 2020 and possibly Ruiz in 2021. I’ve always felt Catcher is the best position for a job-share, especially if one of the two [Smith] can play other positions.

      1. The good news is that Ellis would give Smith at least a half year more at AAA and when brought up, he would probably get half the innings when paired with Barnes.

  3. Lots of good stuff in The Athletic. Here are bits:
    `
    The Dodgers are widely rumored to be in on Harper, but the reality, according to major-league sources, is that they do not want him on a long-term, record-setting contract.
    `
    … but the Dodgers are reluctant to part with Verdugo’s six years of control, knowing Puig is likely to be either traded or lost as a free agent after the ’19 season. The Dodgers do not want to turn their outfield surplus into a deficit, and Verdugo’s contact skills would be welcome…
    `
    For the moment, the team is committed to Cody Bellinger in center, but A.J. Pollock’s ability to play that position might actually make him a better free-agent fit than Harper… He would be the position-player version of left-hander Rich Hill, valued for bursts of excellence in limited action.
    `
    The Dodgers then could pursue Arenado or Rendon next offseason, possibly moving Justin Turner to first base in 2020, the final year of his contract…

  4. Nice post AC…I like all the vet catchers you mentioned except Ellis. To me Weiters or Lucroy are best as vet leaders and Mesoraco as a power guy but what about framing? If the team does not like any of those options I’m ok with several trade candidates including Barnhart. It appears the Marlins priced themselves out of the Dodgers level of interest so why not bring Grandal back for 2 years and $20M? He may sulk for awhile but he turned down the QO that was offered. They get the framer they want who already knows the pitchers and has thunder in his bat. Does he drive me crazy sometimes? Yes but he has to be an option in their plans, especially with his price dropping. A few years back they did this with Kendrick who also turned down the QO, found a soft market and resigned with the Dodgers for 2 years and $20M. At least they know what they are getting with Grandal. It’s better than including Cody or several blue chippers for JTR. Grandal could be traded before the 2 years are up if Ruiz or Smith arrive ahead of schedule.

  5. The Dodgers need to add a righty bat but is Realmuto that guy? Here is his line against leftys: .204/.271/.380

    1. Excellent point. Maybe that’s why we’ve been linked to all these righty bats: Lemahieu, Pollock, Martinez, etc.

  6. This is a great analysis by AC. Many have commented in the past that we need a stopgap at catcher until either Smith or Ruiz make the move to the Dodgers. I thought what if neither turn out to be major league catchers? Then what? And, AC’s analysis of past and current catching prospects puts the situation into perspective and kind of validates my concerns on the subject. Odds are that only one or maybe neither one will be our catcher of the future. Prospects are just that…prospects. That’s why I think trading for Realmuto is something that needs to be done. We would have him for two years and, if necessary, extend or resign him. Miami’s asking price is ludicrous of course. They want to make up for last years questionable returns for trades they made. Well, that’s their problem. The rest of baseball isn’t going to help them fix stupid. Realmuto has already told them he will not resign with them. So, time is not Miami’s side. The longer they wait the less return they will get. Why they would not go for Verdugo, Smith and maybe a AA pitcher is crazy. Bellinger? Come on Miami. Like I said you can’t fix stupid.

  7. To those of you who think Friedman was crazy to offer Ryu arbitration, all you have to do is see that the Yankees signed JA Happ for twice that in a two year deal. In many respects, they are the same pitcher with Happ being 5 years older! I’d say Ryu for 1 year is a good deal.

    1. I was and still am very pro Ryu being offered and accepting the QO. Excellent move to have a pitcher with dominant stuff at the backend of the rotation.

    2. It all depends on whether we are not hampered by his salary. If we are unable to sign players because we lack the payroll space, it still could be said it was a bad decision. Even without him our rotation would be good (Kershaw/Buehler/Hill/Maeda/Wood/Stripling). If we can’t fit Harper’s contract onto the 2019 team because of Ryu’s $17.9, maybe offering him arbitration wasn’t a smart decision. No moves exists in a vacuum.

      1. Hindsight is 20/20 but I’d sign Ryu any day of the week for 1 year and $17 million. Until his leg injury (his first leg injury), he was one of the best starters on the team.

    3. The big question is his health. The team must have been happy with his physical condition at the end of the season to even offer the QO. If he is healthy all year and can make 25 starts then the QO was probably worth it.

  8. DODGERS WELCOME TIM NEVERETT TO BROADCAST TEAM

    LOS ANGELES –
    The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced the addition of Tim Neverett to their broadcast team. Neverett will call a select number of Dodger games on both television and radio, handling play-by-play duties on SportsNet LA during Joe Davis’s national assignments and on AM 570 in place of Charley Steiner, who requested to cut back on his broadcast schedule.

    “We’re excited to welcome Tim to our broadcast team, and know Dodger fans will appreciate his knowledge, passion and insight on the air,” said Lon Rosen, Dodger Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “The Dodgers are also thrilled that Charley will continue to be part of the team’s broadcasts for years to come. We think the addition of Tim along with Charley, Joe and our talented group of analysts and reporters will continue to treat Dodger fans to one of the best broadcasts in baseball.”

    The 52-year-old Neverett served as the radio play-by-play voice of the Boston Red Sox for the past three seasons following a seven-year stint as the radio and television play-by-play announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before joining the Pirates, Neverett spent four years working for FSN Rocky Mountain, including as a studio host for Colorado Rockies games during the 2008 season. He also served the network as a play-by-play announcer for Rockies games, college football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, arena football, and track and field. In addition, Neverett hosted talk shows for both the nationally syndicated Sporting News Radio Network and ESPN 560 in Denver, Colorado, where he was named the 2005 Best Radio Sports-Talk Host by Westword magazine. Prior to his time in Denver, Neverett lived in Las Vegas, calling games on radio and TV for the Padres’ and Dodgers’ Triple-A teams as well as Las Vegas’ International Hockey League team and the UNLV baseball and football teams. Neverett, who began his broadcasting career in 1985 with Pittsburgh’s Double-A affiliate Nashua, also called baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer as well as hockey and skiing during four Olympic Games from 2002-2008.

    “I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to join such an established and talented group of radio and television broadcasters, as well as the gifted production personnel with the Dodgers,” said Neverett. “My family and I are thrilled to be able to be part of the Dodger family and be back in the National League. I am very much looking forward to getting started, renewing old acquaintances and making new ones.”

    The Dodgers also agreed to a contract extension through the 2021 season with Steiner, who is entering his 15th season as the club’s play-by-play announcer.

    “I am thankful to Mark, Stan, Tucker and Lon for their understanding of my desire to cut back on my schedule and extending my contract to allow me to continue doing what I love,” said Steiner. “Father Time, Mother Nature, and the road have never lost a battle. I’m just trying to keep pace with those three, and hopefully getting to call the final out of the Dodgers’ next championship. Tim will be a great addition to the Dodger broadcast, and I am so thrilled to have him join the Dodger family.”

  9. espn 710’s John Ireland says he has a source that says Brice Harper is signing with the Dodgers.

    1. I’m OK with signing Harper. That indicates 2 things to me:
      1. The Dodgers are serious about winning
      2. The Dodgers will clear out the OF logjam

          1. Steve Mason was telling John about how on reddit, some Angel fan, who called the Justin Bour signing before it happened, was now claiming that the Dodgers and Harper have agreed on a deal. And that’s the only such source of any Harper/Dodger rumors.

            It was more of a segment on rumors than reality.

    2. I have heard about five iterations of this same rumor. I’m starting to think they have some basis in reality. If we do sign him, I’m expecting the deal to be very complicated so it wouldn’t be a shock that it’s taking a while to come together.
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      IF true, a few things: first of all, holy crap what a major move. The fans deserve it. Let BH bring excitement, production, and a ring to a champion-starved franchise. Secondly, we’d likely be clearing some payroll space; I’m thinking Wood, Kemp, & Puig possibly on the move. Lastly, I think it would further open the floodgates to more additions via trade, as this would be the sign that we are truly going all-in. Adding Harper would make moving Verdugo make a lot more sense. Whether it’s for Kluber, Stroman, ??? . . .
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      I don’t see why any Dodger fan wouldn’t want Bryce Harper. All contracts are tradeable. Just look at Robinson Cano this offseason. It’s time for something big. And fun. Opening Day wouldn’t get here soon enough.

      1. The Nats have been favored to win it all several times in the last 3 years. They had great starting pitching and Harper. Needless to say, Harper didn’t get the favored Nats to the WS much win it.

  10. I guess the ryu signing is better that 4 years 48 million but it might handcuff us this year. If healthy he is a quality pitcher. I would take Harper but I certainly wouldn’t do a dope fiend deal in length. If a shorter contract means higher aav I just don’t see how we do it without going over the limit and into luxury tax territory. One thing is for sure that Friedman has at least made people think we are in on him thus driving up the price. We may be able to match up with cincy and I wish we could have done a deal with the Mets when they were doing dumb dumb deals. Texas claims they need pitching and an innings eater so wood could fit. We could add somebody with him for leclerc. We will probably end up keeping most everybody and having the same team basically. I don’t know what we will do with all the pitchers but I have a feeling spring training we will have to use the dL a lot.

  11. I really like Bryce Harper, and I think he’d fit in pretty well on our team. But let’s not kid ourselves and call him baseball’s Lebron James (or Shaquille O’Neal who was 24 when he came to LA). Shaq had big time success before he came; Lebron obviously has. Harper has had 1 magical year, and then some good ones. He’s an All Star who is a bad defensive player. He is nowhere close to Mike Trout. Harper has been to the playoffs 4 times ,and lost all 4 times. His playoff avg is barely over .200. When we beat Wash in 2016, I was terrified each time Murphy or Trae Turner came to bat. Harper? I knew we could strike him out each time with outside sliders.

    I’d like to sign him, but not at the whatever-it-takes contract. If he came here, and got paid $35mil or more a year, I’d still consider Turner and Seager to be scarier hitters than Harper. And that’s sad, if the highest paid guy in the league isn’t even the top 2 scariest guy on the Dodgers.

    If the White Sox, Phillies, or anyone else give him that ridic $300mil plus deal, I won’t lose a wink of sleep over it.

    1. Totally valid points by you and Bumsrap. You are both definitely not wrong. That said, he is on a Hall of Fame trajectory–only Kershaw can say the same on our current roster–and his upside is still considerable based on his best season. With the expiring of so many 2019 contracts upcoming and our farm system looking fairly stacked for the future, it just seems like now is the time to make a move like this. The market may even be conspiring to let him land with us. I understand that some people just don’t like him. He’s not perfect but he only costs money. Why not?

      1. Which is why I’d sign him and stick him in LF fr the length of his Dodger career. I personally keep Puig in RF for as long as we can. After what I saw in October from Puig, I want him on my team going forward. Personally, I feel he turns that corner in 2019

        1. Ideally I’d like to see Puig play out his “contract” with us through next year and then depart via free agency. I’m convinced he will have a career year if traded. Main reason to trade him would be to open a spot for Verdugo.

        2. Bingo! Move Kemp and Wood, let Puig play out his contract and play everyday. At the end of the year you find out if you want to give him a QO or not. An outfield of Harper, Bellinger, Puig would be fantastic.

  12. Again, when you look at a player’s last year stats, you are making a HUGE mistake. In Realmuto’s case, he is 27, was on a bad team last year and was THE BEST PLAYER on that team. He has hit righties better than lefties his whole career, but not like last season. It’s hard to play 110% everyday when your team has no chance. Look at Yelich: He added 40 points to his BA and doubled his HR totals. His splits against Lefites went from .268 to .337.

    YOU DON’T TRADE FOR THE GUY YOU SEE, You trade for the guy he can be… and on a winning club with the right team arounds him, Realmuto can POSSIBLTY be Christian Yelich! That’s who you are trying to trade for. So, don’t look at JT’s 2018 splits – look at what he is capable of doing. That’s the guy you want.

    He’s already the best catcher in baseball and what person in their right mind wouldn’t want the best player at any position, who happens to be 27 years old? If the Dodgers were to acquire only one more player, I think Realmuto would make them better than Harper! I think you will get a lot more than you see with Realmuto.

    Try this:
    1. Seek Miami’s permission to negiotiate with JT for 48 hours.
    2. Sign him to a 6 year extension that starts after THIS season for $150 million. If he turns it down, then move on.
    3. If he accepts, trade Ruiz, May, Verdugo and another prospect for him.

    Cartaya should be ready by then.

    1. In management we are constantly told, “Don’t hire on potential, hire on experience.” I am not against trading for Realmuto, in fact I like the idea of trying to sign him long term and then trading for him. In fact it plays into the quote above… you get the person who has proven himself rather than banking on potential. However, I disagree with Mark’s statement, ” YOU DON’T TRADE FOR THE GUY YOU SEE, You trade for the guy he can be…” You do trade for the guy you see, not for what might be in the future and Realmuto has done enough already to be rated one of the best catchers in the majors. Smity, Ruiz and our other catchers have potential but we can’t be sure what they will turn out to be.

  13. The catching situation is interesting. Is Realmuto a big enough upgrade to our team to basically call it a day? Have so many teams dropped out of the running that the Dodgers have the Marlins where they want them? What winning WS teams as of late have had an All-Star catcher? We’re all pining for better bat to ball skills and it sounds like Ruiz has them.

  14. Call it a day -NO/Dodgers are practically the only ones/no WS winning team recently has had a all star catcher/Marks suggestion to sign him to extension solves the Ruiz dilemma.

  15. For the record (and I’ve pointed this out before about the ages quoted for players), JT Realmuto is 27 now, but for baseball purposes, he is 28, since that will be his age when his birthday rolls around in March.

    Mark your suggesting a 6 year contract for Realmuto commencing in 2020. That would take him out to 2025, his age 34 season. Maybe that would work. But in this post-PED world there is some risk in giving a 30+ catcher $25 million a year, especially since you’re surrendering a considerable amount of young talent to get him.

  16. I’m predicting the Dodgers front office will make a move in the next six weeks. Mark it down….I’ve called my shot.

    1. That’s a rather safe bet because you can say you are right even if they simply release a player. Give us a real prediction that we can actually measure.

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