A.J. Ellis has always had the reputation of being a good defensive catcher, while his bat was secondary. He has an excellent batting eye, as his minor league on-base percentage is .398 in 1,871 PA, but he has no power (his last home run at any level was August 26, 2008) so there has always been a concern about how Ellis would perform at the plate at the MLB level. At the end of last year, though, Ellis was on fire with the bat.
When Russell Martin got hurt last year on August 3, the Dodgers went with a platoon of Ellis and Brad Ausmus at catcher to fill his shoes. However, the duo struggled mightily, and three weeks later Rod Barajas was claimed off waivers from the Mets. Barajas was claimed on Sunday, August 22, but was across the country with the Mets. Ellis, who was hitting .174/.237/.203, got the start on that day knowing he was on his way back to Albuquerque, at least until rosters expanded.
Ellis went 3-for-3 that day, then kept hitting once he was back up two weeks later. Over his last 49 plate appearances of the season, Ellis reached base 27 times, and hit .462/.563/.538 (Ellis was 8-for-28 with three doubles and three walks in in interim in Triple A, so over his last 80 PA combined he hit .388/.481/.478). Sure, his BABIP was .529, but it was a nice run for Ellis, who at least made his case as the backup catcher for 2011.
However, as is often the case for players with options remaining, life isn't always fair. The Dodgers have zero major-league ready catching depth, so it was pretty much a given that the Dodgers would sign two catchers this offseason. The Dodgers signed Barajas and Dioner Navarro to guaranteed deals, sealing Ellis's fate as the backup in waiting at Triple A.
Ellis holds the career record with 263 hits at Austin Peay University, and was inducted into the Governors' Hall of Fame in 2009.
Ellis has one year, 62 days of service time, and has one option year remaining, which figures to get used this season.
|2011 Projections - Age 30 Season|
Ellis will start the year in Triple A, but catchers have a tendency to get hurt, so expect Ellis to be called up once or twice during the season. Man, Baseball HQ does not like Ellis this year. I'll guess .258/.331/.319 in 78 PA, with 18 starts at catcher.
What is your guess for A.J. Ellis in 2011? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, PA, and number of starts at catcher.