Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on the Options at Catcher

barnes2
(Associated Press photo)

The major league arrival of Keibert Ruiz on Saturday spurred many insightful discussions among fans of the Dodgers, specifically how the team might view its situation at catcher for the next several years.

As it stands, there are five backstops of significance in the organization. Will Smith is the high man on the totem pole for the moment, despite having been placed on the injured list Saturday with neck soreness. Right beside Smith is the 30-year-old journeyman Austin Barnes, who will be the primary catcher until Smith is ready to return. Consequently comes Ruiz, who should see at least a few appearances in the show before Smith is eventually reinstated.

Needless to say, fans have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Ruiz for quite some time.

Regardless, Rocky Gale is nothing more than an emergency option, and his value might plunge even further if Ruiz proves that he’s legitimately ready to contribute in the majors. Further down the line is the 18-year-old Diego Cartaya, who some pundits feel may have a higher ceiling than any other catcher in the organization.

It’s hard to know exactly what Andrew Friedman and his troops are thinking, but my guess would be that Smith is probably the safest of the group with regards to job security. At the peak their games, he’s a better hitter than Barnes, and although his pitch framing is not quite as good, his mechanics are definitely comparable, while his throwing arm is far more superior.

As far as Barnes goes, he’s arbitration eligible for both the 2021 and 2022 seasons before becoming a unrestricted free agent for his 2023 campaign. Indeed, the Dodgers will be faced with a tough decision over whether they want to tender him a contract this winter, especially if Ruiz finds a way to impress management during the time he sees in the majors this year. Before the prorated salary adjustments due to the shortened season, Barnes was set to make $1.1 million this year.

If you haven’t seen Sunday’s column by Jim Callis of MLB.com, it might be worth taking at least a peak. Callis breaks down each of Ruiz’s tools in terms of prospect rankings, as it gives a quick glimpse of what fans might expect from the 22-year-old native of Venezuela. One thing to keep an eye on—as indicated by Callis—is that despite having decent arm strength, Ruiz shows inaccuracy when it comes to prospective base stealers, and it might be interesting to see if opposing clubs try to capitalize on that weakness early.

The fact that Cartaya is at the alternate training site working out with big league caliber players suggests he might be farther along than many think. Last year, Cartaya made his first appearance on American soil and saw limited action in the Arizona Rookie League, but it would not be surprising at all if he works his way up to the Double-A level next season, assuming everything returns to normal on the minor league side of things.

Obviously, anything can happen between now and next year, but I have a feeling that Barnes might stay for at least one additional season, particularly if Ruiz does not have many opportunities during however much time he sees at the big league level this year.

There has been some fan chatter about the possibility of moving either Barnes or Ruiz at this year’s August 31 trade deadline. I feel that it would be extremely risky for the club to move Barnes—even if the return is exceptional—and at the same time, it would be very unwise to move Ruiz until the Dodgers know for sure what they have in Cartaya.

For now, regardless of how well either Barnes or Ruiz perform offensively, Smith and Barnes is my catching tandem for as far as the Dodgers will go in 2020.

22 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on the Options at Catcher

  1. I would agree that Ruiz will probably not see enough action with the big club this year for him to bump Barnes off the roster next year. I think starting the year at OKC next year would serve him well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spend most of 2021 at AAA.

    You mention that you think it would be unwise for the club to move Barnes “even if the return was exceptional”. Not saying he’s worthless in a trade scenario but in what alternate universe to you see Barnes ever bringing an exceptional return? I think you’ve let his performance this past week go to your head Dennis. 🙂

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    1. Looks like, for the time being anyway, Chris Taylor is an every day player. Doc has him somewhere in the lineup for every game. I have no problem whatsoever with that.

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  2. As Nuke LaLoosh would have said, Keibert Ruiz announces his presence with authority! HR in his first MLB at bat. Muncy and Seager also go deep. Dodgers cruising so far. But Rios went down with a hammy problem. And some questionable base running and Doc leaving Rios in even though injured cost them a run.

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  3. I was going to comment earlier that the dodgers most pressing need (outside of a dependable starter) was at the catcher position, both this year and probably long term. Nothing to make me think any of our “prospects ” were going to solve this problem. Will Smith another 60 day wonder flamed out last year and hasn’t shown anything this year. Seems to take 60 days before the league catches up to these rookies, so I always wait for year 2 before making any kind of assessment. I’d rather have a big leaguer hitting 200 than a rookie hitting 200. To be fair catching position is tough and it takes longer to grasp than a position player, both offensive and defensively. Maybe barnes is the the answer after all.

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      1. I have to agree with you there Dennis. But in this day and age most teams do not run much. And the runners usually are stealing on the pitcher. But a guy with a great move like Terehan can stop the running game all by themselves. I hate to do it, but I am officially off of the Joc Pederson bandwagon. Joc looks totally lost up there. And I mean lost. He needs to quit swinging at pitches he can never connect with. Righty-Lefty-righty-lefty the next 4 games against the Mariners. Dodgers need to get some home wins. They are 10-2 on the road, and 6-5 at home.

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      2. Anyone have numbers on what percentage of home games are being won by teams this year vs. a normal year with real live people in attendance. I think the only advantage to playing at home this year is the knowledge of the physical playing field and that isn’t going to win a lot of games for you. Anyway, I’d love to know if there is less of a home advantage than normal this year.

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      3. I checked all of the records, and here is what it shows. this is for all the teams. AL East. Home 26-23; Road 28-28. AL Central Home 26-27 Road 25-25, AL West Home 31-26.. NL East Home 25-27 Road 23-27, NL Central 19-24, Road 27-27, NL West, Home 28-25, Road 31-28. There is really no clear cut advantage this year so far. In the AL, the Yankees, A’s and Twins all have 9 wins at home. The Yankees are undefeated there. The Orioles and White Sox are better on the road than at home, both have 8 wins. Most NL teams are very close to .500. Only the Braves are much better at home at 7-2. 4 of the NL West teams have winning records at home. Only the Giants have a losing record there. Only the Dodgers have 10 wins on the road, the Marlins and Brewers are next at 8. Hope that helps.

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    1. Thanks for the research Bear. Although it’s still a fairly small sample size, it looks like home field advantage isn’t all that great an advantage so far. That may prove interesting come playoff time.

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  4. When people speak of Barnes they over look his value he brings to the staff. last season he had lowest ERA in the MLB for catchers. Pitchers consistently speak of how much they like throwing to him. If he can hit around 250 he is HIGHLY valuable

    Look at Ruiz yesterday he moves to much back there and gives a lazy target. You can see where he has great upside but simply not ready.

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    1. Ruiz is a kid. But he has great tools. He is more the future than Barnes is. I think somewhere down the road, when Cartaya is ready, Smitty moves to 1st base. He has some experience there. Barnes is an excellent catcher. Hitting skills aside, you are right, the pitchers love having him back there. And right now with the DH, his doing anything at the plate is a plus. But he is not the future behind the plate. That rests on Ruiz and Cartaya.

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      1. I’m not aware that Smith has had any experience at first base. He did play some 2nd and 3rd in the minors but I don’t believe he’s played first. Also, based on his hitting history, I don’t think he has the bat to play first base. If they’re going to move him off catcher, maybe 2nd base would be the best option. He may also have the tools to play left at some point although I don’t think he’s ever done it.

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      2. You are right, it was 3rd. But I think he is a wee bit too tall to play second. At least he looks large for a 2nd baseman. But 1st is an easy position to play for someone like him. and I think his power numbers will get better. After all, there are more than a few first basemen out there with not so great power numbers…Belt, Votto.

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      3. I don’t mean to pick on you Bear but I have some work to do and this is giving me an excuse to postpone it.
        You think Smith is too tall/large to play second?
        Smith – 5’10”
        Kike – 5’11”
        Muncy – 6’0″ (and 20 pounds heavier than Smith)
        Lux – 6’2″

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  5. Ruiz, needs to grow he is almost is lazy behind the plate right now, he moves to much, even Smith does when compared to Barnes which is why I think the pitchers like throwing to him, he is like a rock back there how steady he is.

    I agree Ruiz could be the future or Smith or someone else. The Dodgers are in solid shape as all are good options and one may prove to be a great option. I think TODAY Barnes has value that is not appreciated by all—-you Bear seem to get it

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