Brad Ausmus had a choice this season: retire to his home in San Diego or return as the Dodgers' backup catcher. It's not bad work if you can get it. Being the backup to Russell Martin isn't quite the same as backing up Cal Ripken, Jr., but it's close.
Since making his major league debut on May 5, 2006, Martin has started 532 games at catcher, more than anybody else in baseball. The only five catchers within 100 starts of Martin are Jason Kendall, Brian McCann, A.J. Pierzynski, and Bengie and Yadier Molina. Which means the Martin's backup simply doesn't play that much.
Infrequent playing time seemed to suit Ausmus last year, as he had his best offensive year in a decade. From 2000 to 2008, Ausmus hit .243/.319/.326, for an OPS+ of 67, only reaching an 80 OPS+ twice. Last season, playing in just 36 games, Ausmus hit .295/.343/.368 for a 93 OPS+, his highest since 1999. Ausmus was almost exclusively a catcher last year, pinch hitting only six times.
Ausmus is talked about quite often as someone with a future as a manager, and he has a great mind for it. Not just a baseball mind, either. Ausmus graduated from Dartmouth in 1991, making him one of the rare Ivy Leaguers to play in the major leagues. I knew Ausmus went to Dartmouth, but what I didn't know was that he never played there. From Dartmouth Sports:
An All-Star catcher in 1999, Ausmus never donned a Green and White uniform because he was the property of the New York Yankees while attending classes at Dartmouth. He played minor league ball while attending college and graduated in 1991.
Ausmus played 10 of his 17 seasons with the Astros, making one all-star team and winning three Gold Gloves. He was so beloved in Houston, that the team made him a tribute video played at his final game as an Astro in 2008:
Ausmus is tied with Benito Santiago for eighth place on the list of most games caught:
Ausmus seems likely to end the year in sixth place, behind the top four and Kendall.
One year contract for $850,000 in 2010, plus a $1 million option for 2011, with a $150,000 buyout.
Ausmus can earn up to $200,000 annually in incentives based on plate appearances from 150 to 225.
|2010 Projections - Age 41 Season|
|Thanks to Fangraphs for much of the data.|
I'll guess Ausmus hits .240/.320/.330, with 22 starts at catcher.
What are your predictions for Brad Ausmus (BA/OBP/SLG)? Be sure to also guess the number of starts at catcher for Ausmus, too.