Daily Dodger in review: How much can the Dodgers depend on A.J. Ellis?
A.J. ELLIS, 29, catcher.
Final 2010 stats: .278 batting average, no home runs, 16 RBI, .363 on-base percentage, .324 slugging percentage in 108 at-bats.
Contract status: under team control.
The good: solid behind the plate and very good handling the pitching staff. Excellent guy in the clubhouse. Not afraid to draw a walk. Finished with a flurry, hitting .417 in his final 16 games.
The bad: Prior to September, was batting an empty .208. Looked too much like someone being forced to fill in while Brad Ausmus, and then Russell Martin, were injured. Is a big guy with zero power. Will turn 30 the first week of the season, so it’s hard to count on some giant, untapped upside.
What’s next: Right now, he figures to return next season, if only as a backup. His exact role will depend on whether the Dodgers decide to bring back Martin and/or Rod Barajas or go outside the organization.
The take: Joe Torre didn’t do Ellis any favors early, barely playing him as he continually trotted out Martin. He had no chance of getting into a rhythm, but by the time he was called up a third time in September, he acted like someone who belonged.
It could be dangerous to put too much faith in a great final month, but the Dodgers seem comfortable with Ellis behind the plate. He’s never going to be the next Johnny Bench, but if he can even approach his September numbers over the long haul, then the Dodgers have a very usable commodity in a baseball-wide thin position.
His best scenario could be splitting time with the 35-year-old Barajas. The Dodgers have to be curious what he could do with consistent playing time, but given their dearth of power at so many positions, being the everyday catcher seems out of reach.
-- Steve Dilbeck