If you missed Friday’s column, I took a few moments to quickly layout the names which will conceivably make up the majority of the Oklahoma City Dodgers 25-man roster when they open the season early next month at Iowa. In my haste, I foolishly grouped Rocky Gale and Shawn Zarraga together at Triple-A, while paring Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz together at Double-A Tulsa.
After reconsidering, and a few influential words from the venerable Jeff D., it completely makes sense to have, say, Smith play under the tutelage under Gale at OKC, while Ruiz gets the primary reps at Tulsa with Zarraga at his side for mentoring. With Smith’s ability to also handle defensive duites at second and third base, it creates even more options. So there’s that.
But what’s more intriguing is the road that lies ahead for Kyle Farmer. At this point, he appears likely to make the big league 25-man roster, but what we don’t know is how the organization plans to use him in a defensive capacity, if they have a plan at all. Everybody knows he can deliver with the bat—especially in the clutch—but where he will ultimately settle in with the glove remains to be seen.
Recently, I came across this little tidbit from Eric Stephen at True Blue LA which highlighted the potential views on how much the club trusted Farmer’s receiving skills behind the dish. I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate, but it does paint a perceptive picture, nonetheless:
“I was definitely the last, last resort in 2017,” Farmer said. “We were in New York and Grandal was hurt, then Barnes got hit on the hand, and they were, like, surrounding me and telling me what to do. And then I heard Utley was back in the batting cage trying on catcher’s gear. Like, that’s great. But I think they’ve become more comfortable with it.”
After his promotion to the bigs last year, Farmer appeared in 20 games, four of which he saw time at third base, three at catcher, at one at first base. The remaining appearances saw him contribute as a pinch hitter. But does the team envision him primarily as a backstop or a utility-type of player moving forward?
With Grandal, Barnes and Farmer all on the same roster, the possibilities are endless, especially if the coaching staff has faith in Farmer’s receiving skills. Barnes can cover second base in a pinch, but more importantly, when he’s locked in at the plate, he’s one of the best available right-handed hitting pinch hitters on the squad. The same can be said about Grandal’s skills from the left side of the dish. With all the conceivable mixing and matching scenarios at hand, Dave Roberts is sure to maximize his bench production.
However, when Justin Turner‘s wrist eventually heals, does the team option Farmer back to OKC to create roster space, or does it cut the relief corps back down to seven arms? It’s certainly not a bad problem to have, and, as we all know, maybe some other type of roster scenario will pop-up down the road that resolves the dilemma. Nevertheless, there’s still a chance that Farmer could be optioned at some point, which would create a logjam behind the plate at OKC—if the club does indeed view him as a catcher down the road.
The whole situation is very ironic, because it was only about five years a go when A.J. Ellis was the best thing to write home about when considering the organization’s catching depth. People had high hopes for guys like Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz, who were nothing more than suitable receivers with below-average offensive skills. Before that, it was Russell Martin who had the stronghold on the catching spot, which was during a time when fans were still visibly upset that team boss Ned Colletti traded away blue-chip prospect Carlos Santana for Casey Blake at the 2008 summer deadline.
Regardless, the current list of catching prospects is endless. Other potentially talented guys like Connor Wong hardly get any press time at all considering the vast amount of talent above them. The entire scenario makes one wonder when the front office crew will package up one of these prospects in the midst of a blockbuster trade, preventing any additional blocks of players advancing in the near future.
Either way, 2018 may end up being pivotal, especially when contemplating the likely departure of Grandal at or before the end of the season. Maybe Barnes and Farmer will be the catching tandem of the future, or perhaps one of the youngsters who has been touted the past few years will finally be given a chance to climb to the higher levels of the organization.