2010 Player Profile: A.J. Ellis, Forever in AAA?

Andrew James "A. J." Ellis was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2003 draft after completing his senior year and his communications degree  - the better to talk to pitchers with, my dear - at Austin Peay University in Tennessee.  The Missouri-born Ellis played his high school ball in, and still lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where he appeared in the 2008 AAA All-Star game.

Ellis has made a slow but steady climb through the Dodger minor-league organization.  After a short stint in low-A ball after being drafted, he has spent two years at each of the high-A, AA, and AAA levels.

He made his major-league debut as a September call up in 2008, had a cup of coffee with the Dodgers last June, and was once again a September call up last year.

Ellis credits a hot stint in the Arizona Fall League where he hit  .346 / .486 / .481 / .967 in 66 plate appearances in the off-season between his two AA seasons for increasing his confidence level.

What really did it for me I think, was going out to the Arizona Fall League in 2006 and performing as well as I did against the best pitching prospects in all of minor league baseball and seeing I could hit those guys on an every-day basis it gave me some inner confidence and belief in myself that I could stick around and play this game for a while.

Where this increased confidence showed was in his slugging percentage, which he raised from a paltry .294 to an acceptable .409 with no drop in his excellent OBP, .383 one year, .382 the other.  As a hitter, Ellis is nothing if not disciplined.  He has a career .398 OBP in the minors, including .437 in AAA for the last two years, keeping his walk totals close to or higher than his strikeout totals.  He told True Blue LA's Phil Gurnee that as a batter his game is to work the count and either get the pitch to hit he wants or take a walk.

Ellis has a reputation as a good defensive catcher than pitchers like to throw to.  A backup catcher who receives the baseball well and has some on-base skills (even with no power), is not a bad guy to have on the bench and to make the occasional starts hitting in the #8 hole in front of the pitcher.

Trivia

Ellis' brother Josh is a relief pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization who played at the AA and AAA levels last year in his age 24 season.

Contract Status

Ellis was first eligible for the Rule V draft in the winter preceding the 2007 season.  He has accumulated 81 days of major league service time.  Presumably he signs a split contract each season, though confirmation of that was not found. 

2010 Outlook

Years Level Age PA BB% K% Runs RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA
2004-2005 A+ 23-24 347 13.3% 13.3% 42 44 .241 .357 .334
2006-2007 AA 25-26 744 15.2% 15.3% 93 78 .261 .382 .361
2008-2009 AAA 27-28 697 16.4% 12.6% 92 98 .318 .437 .415
2008-2009 NL 27-28 13 0.0% 23.1% 1 1 .077 .077 .077 .089
2010 Projections - Age 29 Season
CHONE 285 14.2% 20.0% 36 36 .242 .359 .337 .320
Marcel 183 8.8% 19.7% 24 24 .257 .328 .399 .321
ZiPS 328 12.8% 18.9% 40 45 .250 .353 .326 .314

 

Russell Martin is furiously trying to be ready for Opening Day and Brad Ausmus (and his guaranteed contract) seems to be recovered from a mild back strain, so it appear that Ellis will likely begin his season back at Albuquerque.  To be consistent with my prediction for Ausmus (season-ending injury), I'll predict 27 starts at catcher for Ellis, 107 PAs, .237 / .333 / .329.

What are your predictions for A. J. Ellis (BA/OBP/SLG and Plate Appearances)?  Please also guess the number of starts at catcher for Ellis.

(Statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com, thebaseballcube.com and fangraphs.com)

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