A.J. ELLIS, 32, catcher
Final 2013 stats: .238 batting average, 10 home runs, 52 RBIs, .318 on-base and .364 slugging percentages, threw out 44.4% of base stealers (28 of 63), the staff ERA when he caught was 3.06.
Contract status: In second year of arbitration eligibility.
The good: In his second full season as the team’s starting catcher, he actually improved behind the plate. He was No. 1 in the majors in throwing out runners and in catchers’ ERA.
Tied for third on the team in RBIs, despite batting mostly batting sixth and seventh in the lineup. Had a .420 slugging percentage on the road, where he hit eight of his 10 homers. With a 3-1 count he hit .643 (with a full count he hit .200). Hit game-winning home run against Diamondbacks to clinch the division. Batted .316 in the postseason.
Proved once again to be an insightful World Series blogger (and on deadline) for The Times. Rock-solid in the clubhouse. Unquestioned effort and commitment.
The bad: Outside of RBIs and strikeouts, most of his offensive numbers slipped in 2013. His on-base percentage, one of the things he was more renowned for, fell from .373 in 2012 to .318, mostly because he walked 20 fewer times. Almost as if pitchers have caught on to his patience routine. Batted .211 at home.
Spent a stint on the 15-day disabled list in early June with an oblique strain. And he hasn’t gotten any faster.
What’s next: He’s ensconced behind the plate as the Dodgers’ No. 1 catcher.
The take: Ellis was one of the team’s true leaders last season, always valuable from a catcher, but he will have to take on even more of that role next year with Skip Schumaker, Mark Ellis and Nick Punto all moving on.
That he was even a little better defensively and handling the staff goes to increased experience and dedicated preparation. The ERA when he was catching was the second-best in MLB the previous year (3.33) and he lowered that fairly significantly.
The Dodgers did manage to cut back on his games played last season, but may yet try to reduce last season’s total (115). He hit .175 in August and .203 in September.
Certainly the Dodgers – and Ellis – would like to see a little more offense out of him, but the way he is behind the plate and in the clubhouse, they can live with those same numbers. He may be something of a role player, but it’s a huge role.