Back in October, just after the season ended, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti sang the praises of Tim Federowicz, and said the 25-year old would get a shot at the backup catcher spot in 2013.
"I think Tim had a real good year. From where he was a year ago to what he became this year," Colletti said. "Again, you have to compete for the time and compete for the place in February. But we have much more confidence in him than we did a year ago."
Federowicz hit .294/.371/.461 with 34 doubles and 11 home runs in 115 games for Triple-A Albuquerque, and threw out 33 of 84 (39.3%) attempted base stealers. He was named both a Pacific Coast League All-Star at midseason and to the postseason all-PCL team.
Colletti said he wasn't likely to sign a veteran backup to a major league contract, and to date none have been added to the roster. It's likely that in the next month or so a few more catchers will join Wilkin Castillo as non-roster invitees to spring training, but it's highly likely that Federowicz will be the favorite for the backup role.
But given the performance of the planned backups in recent years, it's not hard to see why a change of pace is the preferred path.
- 2012: Matt Treanor (age 36) - .175/.281/.282 in 36 games, including 33 starts
- 2011: Dioner Navarro (age 27) - .193/.276/.324 in 64 games, including 46 starts
- 2010: Brad Ausmus (age 41) - .222/.310/.254 in 21 games, including 19 starts
- 2009: Brad Ausmus (age 40) - .295/.343/.368 in 36 games, including 27 starts
- 2008: Gary Bennett (age 36) - .190/.260/.381 in 10 games, including six starts
- 2007: Mike Lieberthal (age 35) - .234/.280/.260 in 38 games, including 17 starts
- 2006: Sandy Alomar (age 40) - .323/.323/.403 in 27 games, including 11 starts
Since Alomar's swan song, the Dodgers have had some putrid performances from their planned backups of late. The only solid performance came from Ausmus, who had his best season in a decade at age 40, so it's understandable he was brought back for another year. The only non-veteran among the group was Navarro, but he was coming off back-to-back terrible seasons.
A.J. Ellis proved to be quite durable in his first full major league season as a starter, as he was third in the league with 128 starts and 1,151 innings behind the plate, but even the most durable of backstops leave 20% of the games for their backup(s).
In 2012, the number one catchers in the National League (defined by Baseball-Reference.com as the one who caught the most innings on the team) averaged 96 starts and hit a collective .265/.339/.425. All other catchers in the NL hit .231/.299/.363.
Sure there is a ton more to catching than offense, and I don't mean to discount that. But given that Federowicz's strength is said to be receiving, it's probably for the best to give him a good, long look at the backup spot and hope his offense comes through. After all, the bar isn't too high.