Two needs, one player

The Dodgers only have a few holes but two of those holes could be plugged by the same player. With Yazmani Grandal hitting free agency, and Austin Barnes a huge question mark, along with the Dodger catching prospects being probably a year away from really being able to take the role, the Dodgers could use a catcher. They are also going to lose their big right-handed bat when Manny Machado decides to play the Machado way somewhere else.

Corey Seager is a big bat, but like many of the Dodger big bats, he is left-handed. The Dodgers only have three hitters that you could classify as above average right-hand hitters, Justin Turner/Puig/Chris Taylor.

David Young from TBLA suggested in the comments that the Dodgers could make a play for J.T. Realmuto by trading their prized catching prospect, Keibert Ruiz. I poo-pooed the idea at first but after percolating on it overnight, I started to think he may be onto something.

  • He’s a catcher
  • He’s young and team controlled until 2021
  • He might be the fastest catcher in baseball
  • He’s right-handed and has improved his OPS+ every year from 92 – 111 – 112 – 131.
Year    Age   PA  2B 3B HR   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2014     23   30   1  1  0 .241 .267 .345 .611   70
2015     24  467  21  7 10 .259 .290 .406 .696   92
2016     25  545  31  0 11 .303 .343 .428 .771  111
2017     26  579  31  5 17 .278 .332 .451 .783  112
2018     27  531  30  3 21 .277 .340 .484 .825  131
5 Yr   5 Yr 2152 114 16 59 .279 .327 .442 .768  111
162     162  646  34  5 18 .279 .327 .442 .768  111

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/1/2018.

Put into context his 2018 season was the best in baseball at the catching position

But the devil is in the details. His splits are not what we are looking for. I had hoped to find that his high OPS+ was partially based on his hammering LHP, but it isn’t. It is the opposite, he flailed against LHP and crushed RHP. We have enough hitters that crush RHP already.  Could 2018 have been a fluke season? Maybe, but even his historical splits show a 50 point spread between right and left-hand pitching. That is way better than the 200 points spread he showed in 2018 but hard to argue with four years of data.

I hate it when you have an idea for a column but it falls apart 3/4 of the way when you dig into the data.

Anyway, J.T. Realmuto is a catcher who clobbers right-hand pitching and since 3/4 of the time you are facing right-hand pitching he still has immense value. Just not enough value for me to give up Keibert Ruiz for him. I remain open-minded about that since Realmuto might be the player that breaks the drought. The one thing that has haunted the Dodgers in the past two World Series has been the offensive performance of the catchers. It would be nice to have a catcher who contributes in October as much as they do from April – Sept. That said, Realmuto could just as easily pull a Grandal in October. You just don’t know.

A year ago I thought Austin Barnes was about to become our Realmuto but 2018 happened.  It will be curious if the Dodgers feel he still has what it takes to be a starting catcher and that 2018 was an aberration or if they will go out and not only find a complement to Barnes but someone who puts him back into his backup role.

Or maybe Grandal is offered the QO and shocks everyone by accepting it.

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