A.J. Ellis paid his dues and then some in the minor leagues, and he and the Dodgers were rewarded last year with a career year from the 31-year-old, first-year starting catcher. The Dodgers want to see if Ellis can do it again, but have shown faith in him with their roster moves, or lack thereof.
Ellis and Tim Federowicz are the only two catchers on the 40-man roster, and even though veterans Jesus Flores, Ramon Castro, and Eliezer Alfonzo were brought into camp as non-roster invitees they are vying for a backup role. To Ellis.
Ellis had a magical 2012. Sure, he hit .270/.373/.414 with 13 home runs, more than he had hit in his previous four seasons in the majors and minors combined. But more importantly, Ellis was trending on Twitter (thanks to a little help from Vin Scully), and his wife delivered their third baby in their car on a Wisconsin interstate.
After such a full year, it's easy to see why Ellis has become a popular player, especially to a segment of fans on the internet. Statements like these don't hurt, either.
"I don't want to play for anybody else. This is the team I was drafted by, and the one I came up with," Ellis said back in January.
I asked Ellis if his 308% raise in salary this season was a validation of his years of toiling in the minors.
"My number one goal and all I care about right now is winning a World Series. That's what it's all about. Just being a part of the Dodgers and being entrusted with handling this pitching staff that keeps getting better and better by the week. That's the reward for all the years of hard work."
That full year also included surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee on Oct. 5. But Ellis has completed his rehab from that procedure and has been under no restrictions in camp.
The career .369 on-base percentage for Ellis is the 14th best in Los Angeles Dodgers history, with a minimum of 500 plate appearances. Mike Piazza and his .394 OBP is fifth, and the only catcher on the list is Chad Kreuter, who put up a .378 OBP from 2000-2002.
With two years, 151 days of service time, Ellis was eligible for arbitration for the first time this season as a Super Two. He and the Dodgers settled on a one-year, $2 million contract on Jan. 18, avoiding an arbitration hearing. Ellis potentially has three years of arbitration eligibility remaining, and the earliest he would be eligible for free agency is after the 2016 season.
Previous Player Profiles
2010: Forever in AAA?
2011: Backup backstop in waiting
2012: A long time coming
|2013 Projections - Age 32 Season|
Ellis made a whopping 128 starts at catcher last season, fourth in the major leagues. I think that gets scaled back slightly, and Ellis hits .264/.363/.384 in 115 starts.
What is your guess for Ellis in 2012? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, number of starts behind the plate, and anything else you wish to guess.