A.J. Ellis, 33, catcher.
Final 2014 stats: .191 batting average, three home runs, 25 RBI, 21 runs and .323 on-base and .254 slugging percentages in 347 plate appearances.
Contract status: Has been offered salary arbitration.
The good: Not a whole lot in this department, at least offensively. Had seven hits in 14 at-bats in the postseason, leading the team. Despite reduced playing time to injuries, he remained a solid, mature presence in a clubhouse that at times needed it. His work ethic and game prep is highly respected among teammates. He continued to work counts, walking 53 times (15.3%). Pitchers still love throwing to him, even though he apparently needs to work on his “framing.”
The bad: Ellis never could get it going offensively. He started slowly, had a second left knee surgery and missed almost six weeks, returned for eight games and then suffered a freakish ankle injury when he stepped on Drew Butera’s catcher’s mask during the celebration of Josh Beckett’s no-hitter. He missed another three weeks with the ankle. A career .256 hitter entering the season, he never turned around at the plate. Hit .169 at home. After throwing out 28 of 63 base stealers in 2013, threw out only 16 of 64 last season.
What’s next: A reduced role with the arrival of Yasmani Grandal.
The take: Ellis will come to camp truly fighting for playing time for the first time since 2011. The Dodgers’ new front office apparently really likes Grandal, since he was the key player they got back in the curious trade of Matt Kemp to the Padres.
Certainly Ellis will have more ambition than becoming Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher, but he’s going to have to prove he’s overcome last year’s offensive disaster. Grandal appeared in 128 games for the Padres last season, and although he hit only .225, he did have 15 homers and 49 RBI.
This should be an interesting spring and season for Ellis. He turns 34 in April, so it’s not like he’s hitting his physical peak. Still, he got here largely through hard work and intelligence, and those are skills that can still serve him well.