Dodgers Roster: Does Russell Martin Have One More Productive Season Left?

jmart

According to some of the media outlets reporting out of Camelback Ranch, the Opening Day catching duties for the Dodgers are up for grabs, as it “remains to be seen how the playing time will break down.”

It was almost nostalgic in a sense when 35-year-old Russell Martin caught staff ace Clayton Kershaw in one of the team’s very first bullpen sessions on Tuesday. Fans immediately imagined what it might be like with Martin as the starting catcher, despite an extremely rough year offensively last season with the Blue Jays.

Regardless of his numbers, though, boss Andrew Friedman already sees many positives by having the 13-year veteran on the squad.

“Bringing Martin back, just him getting up to speed with our guys, the early returns have been unbelievable,” Friedman told Theresa Smith of the Associated Press. “Not surprising just how much he’s already invested into our guys, the questions he’s asking. All he wants to do is win and you can see it in everything he does.”

Nevertheless, because he’s considered to have the higher ceiling, many feel that the starting job belongs to Austin Barnes, especially if he can rediscover the swing that produced a .289/.408/.486 slash line during his 2017 campaign.

Andy put together a report on Monday highlighting some of the steps that Barnes has taken to address his swing mechanics over the winter. She also included some fine praise from one of Barnes’ battery mates, southpaw starter Rich Hill.

Even Martin had his own compliments to offer the 29-year-old Barnes during the early moments of spring camp.

“As far as Barnes, he looks like he’s a tremendous athlete, a good catcher, a good teammate,” Martin said. “Good teammates have one goal in common, they want the team to win and I think we share that so I am not going to be complaining at all about playing time. As long as we win games, and we put ourselves in position to hopefully win a championship, that’s all we can do.”

Sounds like typical wisdom coming from a veteran backstop, and it sounds like an excellent attitude to have on a club whose goal is nothing short of capturing a World Series Championship.

The battle for playing time between Barnes and Martin will begin when Cactus League play begins on Saturday, February 23. It could boil down to whichever player has the best spring, as there are no clear advantages for either player in terms of career batting splits. Barnes has hit lefties about 12 points higher than right-handers during his four years in the majors, but Martin’s numbers are basically identical against both southpaws and righties.

A worst-case scenario approach may entail management splitting playing time equally, especially while taking the necessary precautions regarding rests days for injury prevention. Beyond Martin and Barnes are Rocky Gale and Josh Thole, a pair of thirty-something journeyman catchers who don’t have much upside, especially in terms of offense. In Thole’s last big league endeavor during the 2016 season, he hit just .169/.254/.220 in 136 plate appearances for the Blue Jays. Gale has just three big league appearances, all of which came down the stretch of the regular season last year after rosters expanded.

As far as prospects go, switch-hitter Keibert Ruiz is still progressing. Despite his presence on the 40-man roster, Friedman doesn’t see the youngster making an impact until the 2020 season or beyond. Friedman said he sees Will Smith as being big league ready in terms of receiving and defense, but feels he still needs to refine his offensive skills at Triple-A Oklahoma City before he’s considered for the majors.

Martin is just three years removed from his last All-Star season when he hit 20 long balls and drove in 76 runs for the Blue Jays in 2016. With a spark of rejuvenation upon landing back in Los Angeles, he still feels he’s capable of producing.

“I was horrible last year,” Martin said. “Still a tough out, still could work a count, still hit the ball relatively hard, but it was a down year. I wasn’t as good as I can be. When you get older, they give an excuse for you, `Well, you’re getting old.’ But my body felt great. I got zero excuses.”

 

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20 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: Does Russell Martin Have One More Productive Season Left?

    1. I’ve entertained the abstract delusion that the Farmer trade was clearing a space for Harper and Martin was brought in to share time with Realmuto until Ruiz is ready to do the same thing, In that fancy Barnes is traded for organizational depth. Looks like I got all that wrong.

      To answer the question posed I say yes, Martin will be an asset. He won’t hit like he usta did, but he will be a resource in other ways.

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  1. He is a plus plus teammate and his exit velocity was pretty good last year. He’s really been working on n his swing and here we go Dodger fans, his launch angle! With today’s more athletic talent nfielders and shifts it’s pretty hard to make a living hitting the ball on the ground. That was Barnes’ problem last year. Maybe Martin can give us a mini version of Kemp this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m still of the belief if you hit the ball hard it will find a hole at least half the time. That’s old school but if I were still coaching kids I would teach it that way. Most kids aren’t home run hitters. But Major League hitters are swinging for fences that are actually as close and in some cases closer than the fences were when I was in high school. The average Major League player is 6’1”, weighs over 190 and lifts weights year round. Makes sense to teach the bigger guys to hit it in the air. Many of those guys can hit it off their fists and over the short porches in the league. Some have hit home runs on a broken bat. Some can break a bat over their knee and break a bat on a check swing. Puig did both. That’s gorilla strength. Yeah, hit fly balls. But that coaching style will not work at most levels of ball being played around the world.

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  2. It is not a question of if. There is no question at all. In order for this trade to make any sense at all, Martin is going to have to produce better than he did last year with the bat. I am not so worried about his catching. But if he still has that weak ass stick he had last year, Ol Andy is going to be BBQed on the spit of public opinion.

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    1. Down bear. It’s not like we gave up a ton for him and we’re only paying him 3mill plus change. The bet is one of our 2 catchers has a decent year hitting and doesn’t embarrass themselves like our catchers did last year in the playoffs! And please don’t let

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well I think Friedman got Russell instead of Realmuto because career Martin hits LHP better. .782 to .732. (don’t look at last year’s numbers as neither hit over .700). There’s the robust RH thunder this lineup needs. Pollock, Turner, Taylor, Hernandez, Freese and Martin along with, Seager and Bellinger, Van Skyhack learning them velocity and launch and we score 4.7 against LH starters. Who needs Harper and Realmuto.

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  4. Well Scoop we got Martin instead of Tealmuto bc Miami wanted Lux, May and either Smith or Ruiz! Too rich for me even tho I really wanted Realmuto.

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  5. Scoop we got Martin instead of Realmuto bc Miami wanted Lux, May and either Smith or Ruiz. Too rich even for me and I love Realmuto. And sorry but no combination of Martin and Barnes comes remotely close offensively to Realmuto

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      1. They wanted two of those 4. Friedman decided no. I might have done Smith and ….. somebody else. May and Lux both grade out at 55, with Lux projected as a second baseman and May as a #3 starter. Tough to part with either of them, so….. welcome back Russell.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Good story on the ESPN website by Alden Gonzalez about concerns about free agency in the Dodger clubhouse. Touched on something I mentioned in another stream about the possibility of another player walk out down the road. And the list of very talented, yet still unsigned players is pretty impressive. You could have a pretty good team with those guys……

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  7. Scoop according to Jon Heyman the marlins wanted 3of the 4 for Realmuto. I think Friedman would have done the deal for just Smith and Lux and some loose change. I would have

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    1. Yeah, that’s probably what they asked for Rich. My take was they insisted on 2 and Friedman walked. I think maybe if Realmuto had at least 3 years of control it might have made a difference. But at least 2 top prospects, for a catcher that is average defensively, just OPS’d .651 against lhp and is a free agent in two years just didn’t move Friedman. I think I’m ok with his decision.

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  8. The team, and the off season feels a little incomplete to me, seems like we aren’t any better than we were last year, just different. It seems like we are one move away from being a really good team, a team that could compete with the big three in the AL.

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