Phillies @ Dodgers April 21, 2014: Welcome Back, Dominguez

dodger_stadium_openingday2013Tonight, the Dodgers begin a four game series against the Phillies, and they didn’t wait for the game to start to start making news. Jose Dominguez was called up to give assistance to a weary relief staff. In a corresponding move, Chone Figgins was optioned to Albuquerque. Eric Stephen notes that Figgins had two options left but had to approve being sent to the minors. This type of approval is relatively rare for veterans on the 40-man roster, so I suppose that he’s happy in the Dodgers organization thus far.

The move brings the bullpen up to eight pitchers, which usually isn’t great. Even so, the Dodgers weren’t really using Figgins, who has nine plate appearance and has only played two thirds of an inning on defense. The Dodgers are in the middle of a stretch where they play 29 games in 30 days, so the bullpen could use the extra help. Dominguez will probably swapped with Paco Rodriguez (who can’t be called up until the 25th unless somebody gets injured) later in this stretch.

I didn’t think we’d need to talk about Miguel Olivo again until his opt-out date, but he’s currently hitting well in Albuquerque, which prompted this tweet:

It’s true that the Dodgers catchers have been really bad. But there’s issues with this beyond the number of hits being wrong. We should all know the danger of citing raw Albuquerque statistics by now, and even after adjusting for environment Olivo is putting up ridiculously unsustainable numbers. He currently has a .533 BABIP and a 50% HR/FB rate, both of which are crazy even for the PCL. Even if Olivo stays in Albuquerque, those numbers will regress in a big way.

Phillies
Dodgers
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
CF
Gwynn
RF
Puig
SS
Rollins
2B
Turner
2B
Utley
SS
Ramirez
C
Ruiz
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Howard
CF
Kemp
RF
Mayberry
LF
Van Slyke
LF
Brown
3B
Uribe
3B
Galvis
C
Federowicz
P
Lee (L)
P
Maholm (L)

The current catching tandem of Tim Federowicz and Drew Butera has been awful. But Olivo’s major league offense leaves a lot to be desired. He has a .241 OBP since the start of the 2012 season. He’s also a poor defender and pitch framer. Federowicz’ offense will regress (at least a little bit) in the positive direction with time. He is asolutely a better option than Olivo. Since Butera’s offense is so putrid, a case could probably be made that Olivo is on par with him (though I still would disagree with “better”), but the replacement isn’t worth it. Such a move would remove Butera from the organization, further thinning the catcher position, and would impact the catchers’ rapport with the pitching staff.

As the Dodgers start their series with the Phillies, it’s worth pointing out that they haven’t been as terrible as expected. Their success has been led mostly by Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Utley already has 1.5 fWAR (second in baseball behind Mike Trout, because of course) and is currently hitting .406/451/.672. Jimmy Rollins is also in the top ten in position player fWAR, but his offensive slash line is a more normal .292/.370/.492. Every position player on the Phillies not named Utley or Rollins has combined for a -1.2 fWAR.

Cliff Lee is pitching tonight for the Phillies and he’s had a really weird season so far. In his first start of the year, Lee allowed 8 runs in five innings while only striking out one batter. In last start, he threw a complete game and struck out 13 batters, but allowed 11 hits in the process. He has a big FIP-ERA gap, which will probably resolve itself into being the regular Cliff Lee once his BABIP drops below .432. Against Lee is Paul Maholm, who will be looking to improve upon his terrible 2.84 K/9. Despite the uneven pitching match-up, Fangraphs’ new pre-game odds feature thinks that this game is more or less a coin flip.

All signs remain positive for Clayton Kershaw. He plans to throw another bullpen session tomorrow, and if all goes well a rehab start will follow shortly thereafter.

Wed 4/16Thurs 4/17Fri 4/18Sat 4/19Sun 4/20Mon 4/21Tues 4/22
RJ. Dominguez25
LJ.P. Howell191715
RK. Jansen30161117
RB. League91727
RC. Perez32618
RB. Wilson2315
RC. Withrow2618
RJ. Wright1618

Dodgers Announce Australia Travel Roster

The Dodgers are leaving for Australia tonight and the opening day roster is starting to take shape. The team has announced the 30 players who will be travelling with the team.

In a prelude to announcing the travel roster, Justin Turner was added to the 40-man roster this morning. Turner was probably the best utility infielder candidate coming into the spring, and he secured his roster spot after hitting .355/.459/.452 in Arizona. He won’t live up to those lofty spring numbers during the regular season, but he looks to be a capable replacement to the Nick Punto sized hole on the roster. In order to clear room for Turner, the Dodgers moved Onelki Garcia to the 60 day disabled list. Garcia is recovering from knee and elbow surgeries and hasn’t pitched at all during the spring.

The Dodgers also optioned Miguel Olivo to the minors this morning. Olivo responded by requesting to be released. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but the Dodgers are perilously thin at catcher and Drew Butera is out of options. If Butera doesn’t make the 25 man roster after Australia and doesn’t clear waivers, the Dodgers are an injury away from J.C. Boscan being a major league catcher. This might take some time to resolve, since the Dodgers don’t necessarily need to release Olivo until his opt-out in June.

After this afternoon’s game, the Dodgers announced that Chone Figgins‘ contract was purchased, making his spot on the final roster official. In order to make room for Figgins on the 40-man roster, Javy Guerra was designated for assignment. Guerra has been on the chopping block for awhile, buried on the depth chart behind the Dodgers’ free agent reliever signings and better young talent. Guerra was out of options, and there wasn’t any chance of him making the majors. Guerra had a decent stint for the Dodgers, producing a 79 ERA-, 92 FIP-, and a 108 FIP- in 102.1 innings pitched. However, only 10.2 of these innings were last season. Given Guerra’s previous major league experience, it seems fairly unlikely that he’ll clear waivers. If the Dodgers trade Guerra, the most desirable target will probably be minor league catching depth.

Aside from the obvious starters and the players who were already discussed, the following players will travel to Australia: Mike Baxter, Seth Rosin, Jose Dominguez, Zach Lee, Red Patterson, Joc Pederson, Miguel Rojas, and Alex Guerrero.

Baxter is an extra reserve outfielder, which is necessary since Crawford will be on paternity leave. The extra roster spots allow the Dodgers to defer a final decision on Rosin’s fate. Dominguez and Withrow are slated to be in the bullpen for the trip, though both will likely be optioned once the roster is compressed for the stateside opener. Guerrero travelling with the team is a bit of a surprise, since he could have been optioned to the minors to get additional playing time in Arizona.

Zach Lee, Red Patterson, Joc Pederson, and Miguel Rojas will be travelling as well. All four are non-roster players. Since the 40 man roster is full, it is doubtful that any of them will play outside of the exhibition game against team Australia. Either Lee or Patterson will start the game.

The roster rules for the Australia trip also allow the Dodgers to leave three roster players behind without putting them on the disabled list or designating them for assignment. As of now, six players are staying in Arizona. Dan Haren, Zack Greinke, and Brandon League will likely be the “exempt” players. Matt Kemp, Josh Beckett, and Chad Billingsley will likely be placed on the disabled list. Disabled list assignments will be retroactive to March 19th, so players on the 15-day DL are eligible to return on April 3rd.

To recap, this is how the overall roster stands:

Travelling

Starting Position Players (8): Ellis, Gonzalez, Gordon, Ramirez, Uribe, Puig, Ethier, Van Slyke

Reserve position players (6): Federowicz, Butera, Turner, Figgins, Baxter, Guerrero

Starting pitchers (3): Kershaw, Ryu, Maholm

Bullpen (9): Jansen, Wilson, Wright, Perez, Rodriguez, Howell, Withrow, Rosin, Dominguez

Also on plane (4): Patterson, Lee, Rojas, Pederson

Not travelling

Likely Exempt (3): Haren, Greinke, League

Likely DL (3): Beckett, Kemp, Billingsley

Paternity (1): Crawford

2014 Spring Training Preview: Catchers

ajellis_sanfran_2013-05-04

Age BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
A.J. Ellis 33 2013 .238 .318 .364 .304 95 2.2
’14 ZiPS .244 .337 .367 .306 n/a 2.4
’14 Steamer .243 .337 .367 .313 102 3.4
Tim Federowicz 26 2013 .231 .275 .356 .266 69 0.0
’14 ZiPS .233 .295 .362 .285 n/a 1.6
’14 Steamer .228 .298 .352 .287 83 0.3
Drew Butera 30 2013 (AAA) .187 .228 .281 bad n/a n/a
Miguel Olivo 35 2013 (Marlins) .203 .250 .392 .280 73 -0.1
J.C. Boscan 34 2013 (AAA) .232 .297 .270 also bad n/a n/a

 

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers catchers, also known as “oh please oh please oh please A.J. Ellis stay healthy,” because… there’s not a lot of depth here behind him, is there? (In addition to these five, Griff Erickson and Chris O’Brien will be in camp just because the Dodgers have 32 pitchers and they need someone to catch them. This is not meant to make you feel better.)

Ellis is coming off a bit of a downer year, because while he maintained his power by popping another 10 homers, his OBP dropped by 55 points, thanks to a walk rate that dropped three percent and a BABIP that fell 60 points. On defense, reviews of his ability to frame pitchers were rarely kind. Both ZiPS and Steamer forecast slight rebounds in OBP, but it doesn’t seem like anyone thinks he’s going to get back to the heights that made him the hero of 2012.

Still, he doesn’t need to be what he was in 2012 to be a valuable piece, and the constant rave reviews about his role in the clubhouse and to prepare the pitching staff count in some of the ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet. That’s partially why despite the down year, we never heard a peep about any particularly serious effort to upgrade at the position, which makes sense. If he is merely a somewhat above-average catcher, which isn’t really unreasonable to expect, Ellis is a valuable member of this team,  no matter what Kirk Gibson says.

But really, he has to stay healthy, and he reportedly lost weight this winter in an attempt to do so. You can live with Federowicz as a backup, because he’s got a solid enough defensive reputation that getting him in there once or twice a week is fine, but it’s a real problem if he’s forced to play every day. In parts of three seasons — which to be fair, is still only 193 plate appearances — his line sits at .227/.283/.341. That’s poor, the projection systems don’t really see him improving much, and he’s shown little indication in the minors that there’s much more offense to come. (No one start pointing to his Triple-A numbers, because for the umpteenth time, .348/.416/.592 at home, .255/.338/.390 on the road.)

Beyond that… well, avert your eyes. Take small children out of the room. Butera is arguably the worst hitter in recent history, while at least Olivo can go deep every now and then, on the extremely rare occasion that his bat touches the ball. Boscan is a minor league lifer, with 30 big league plate appearances in a pro career that started back in 1997.

The only intrigue is this: Butera is out of options, which means that he’d have to pass through waivers if and when the Dodgers attempt to send him to Triple-A. (Federowicz has an option remaining, but I’m not ready to delve into those conspiracy theories just yet.)

The good news is that FanGraphs has the Dodger catchers as the 10th best group in baseball, but that comes with an appropriately enormous grain of salt. That projection in based on 3.5 WAR, which I imagine we’d all take, but WAR is not meant to be used down to tenths of a point, and the span of teams that look to be between 3 and 4 WAR include 15 clubs, or half the sport. That’s a pretty big error bar, but it does keep the Dodgers comfortably in the middle of the pack at the position. It does all depend on Ellis, however. If anything happens to him, this could get pretty ugly.

Next upFirst base

Dodgers Bring Miguel Olivo To Camp, Invite Actual Prospects

This is how most people react when they see Miguel Olivo. (via)

This is how most people react when they see Miguel Olivo. (via)

In the great tradition of Ramon Castro and Jesus Flores and other vaguely memorable backup catchers long past their prime, the Dodgers announced via press release that they’ve signed 35-year-old Miguel Olivo to a minor-league contract and invited him to camp.

In 12 years in the big leagues, Olivo has a .241/.275/.417 line, which is, ah, bad. That said, he does have eight different years with double-digit homers, including a high of 23 in 2009, and a strong throwing arm, so there’s that. But there’s also this: he didn’t play after June 12 last year because of some, well, awkwardness:

The Marlins placed Miguel Olivo on the restricted list after the team refused his request to be released and he walked out on the club at the start of Friday’s game.

“I told them I wanted to be released and they wouldn’t give it to me,” Olivo, upset with his lack of playing time, said in a phone interview with the Miami Herald. “I don’t understand why they don’t release me. I told them I wanted to be released because I have 30 days of not playing. I need to play.”

Ah, the Marlins. What can’t you do wrong? Assuming Drew Butera makes it through waivers — he’s out of options — Olivo will fight with J.C. Boscan for a job in Albuquerque.

The Dodgers also brought back catcher Griff Erickson, who had been a minor league free agent after seven years — only two good — in the organization.

From the release, the full list of camp invites to date:

1.       J.C. Boscan, C
2.       Sam Demel, RHP
3.       Griff Erickson, C
4.       Carlos Frias, RHP
5.       Brendan Harris, INF
6.       Zach Lee, RHP
7.       Daniel Moskos, LHP
8.       Chris O’Brien, C
9.       Miguel Olivo, C
10.   Red Patterson, RHP
11.   Joc Pederson, OF
12.   Chris Reed, LHP
13.   Clint Robinson, INF
14.   Miguel Rojas, INF
15.   Ross Stripling, RHP

Hey, look! Actual interesting prospects in camp!