Coming into the 2019 Dodgers season we all expected to get little or no offense from the catcher position. The Dodgers had lost their primary catcher, Yasmani Grandal to free agency after he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. Austin Barnes was coming off the worst season of his major league career and the Dodgers acquired veteran and former Dodger backstop Russell Martin in a swap with the Blue Jays. While it was some nostalgia seeing Martin back in Dodger blue we kept our expectations low. After all as I mentioned above, Barnes was coming off a career worst year at the plate. Barnes posted an OPS+ of 72 in 2018 and Martin hit just .194 with Toronto last year as well. We figured the production would be minimal. Prospects Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith were expected to open the season in the minors.
Both catchers are proving me wrong as both have gotten off to scorching hot starts to the 2019 season for the boys in blue. Barnes and Martin are both hitting above .400 and neither have made any kind of defensive miscues either. Looking at their offensive production both have combined to hit .406 (coming into Saturday afternoons game against the Rockies) which makes the Dodger duo the top hitting catching tandem in baseball so far. The two are now hitting .414 with a 228 wRC+ and they have one of the best walk rates (20.5%) of any other catching corp. They’re also only striking out a little over 10%.
Martin has been great. He is 5 for 12 good enough for a .417/.556./750 slash line with one home run, two runs batted in and five walks. He also contributed with a scoreless inning of relief during a blowout win over Arizona on the opening home stand. Barnes on the other hand has performed just as well. Barnes has posted a .412/.476/.824 line (7 for 17) with two home runs, four runs batted in and three walks. Barnes ranked sixth in overall framing.
Not only are the duo getting it done with the sticks, they’ve been rock solid behind the plate too. The two have combined for just one passed ball and have both handled the pitching staff very well. What an amazing start for both catchers.
It seems that Barnes has put in a lot of work this spring. His plate approaches have drastically improved. Not only is he making contact consistently, but he is getting on base again as well. Martin has made a lot of strides in his game too. If this continues then the Dodgers could get more than they hoped for from their two catchers. They had hoped for good defense, framing and handling of the pitching staff, but at this rate they may just get some offense as well.