Eight years after leaving the Dodgers, a soon-to-be 36-year-old Russell Martin is going back to the team where he broke out and proved that even catchers are capable of stealing bags. The Toronto Blue Jays, well equipped with rookie Danny Jansen heading into 2019, shipped Martin and cash to the Dodgers in exchange for prospects SS Ronny Brito and RHP Andrew Sopko.
The Dodgers had a Yasmani-sized hole at catcher, though it feels like it’s not quite filled yet. Martin started a career-low 71 games at catcher last year, this after just 78 starts in 2017. Almost 36, that number isn’t going to climb any higher so expect the J.T. Realmuto rumors to continue swirling despite the move.
Even in “old” age, Martin still ranked in the top 15 percent of 117 catchers in framing runs according to Baseball Prospectus , so there’s still value in his defensive ability behind the plate. If the Dodgers indeed stop making moves, then Martin and Austin Barnes, who’s a good pitch framer himself, should provide a solid foundation for the Dodgers pitchers. It’s fair to note that despite his playoff struggles, Grandal is an elite framer so there’ll be a defensive loss behind the plate.
While his defense is still passable, it’s the bat that really drags down Martin’s profile. He slashed .194/.338/.325 last year over 352 plate appearances. He was much more passive, swinging less inside and outside of the zone. The biggest culprit, however, became Martin’s complete inability to hit a breaking ball. He had a .076 AVG and .114 SLG against breaking pitches, which were 31 percent of the pitches he saw . While he wasn’t a darling against fastballs, either, it was a more respectable .249 AVG and .438 SLG. Martin’s saving grace remains his 12 percent walk rate which bumped up to 15 percent last season thanks to his increased passivity.
Fantasy value: Martin carries next to no fantasy value, serving as fodder in deep NL leagues now and in two-catcher leagues with more than 15 teams. Expect 300-350 plate appearances from him this year. If you’re in an OBP league he does get a sizable boost as the chasm between his AVG and OBP is growing year over year.
Ronny Brito, SS
Here’s what I wrote about Brito, who was #17 in my yet-to-be-released Dodgers Top 30:
The Dodgers handed Brito a $2 million signing bonus as part of the 2015 international free agent class. He had one of the most advanced gloves in that class and it’s only improved since then. From his footwork, to a strong arm and equally strong instincts, he’s a lock to stay at shortstop and compete for hardware one day.
While his numbers at the plate were impressive last year, it’s important to note this was his third consecutive year in rookie ball and his BABIP was north of .380. He sets up in a crouch with his hands slightly above the letters. Footage from 2018 Instructs showed he alternates between a substantial leg kick and a pivot and it’s unclear if the latter is his two-strike approach. He lacks bat speed and his path to the ball isn’t efficient. He pulls the bat head too far back and tends to be late on pitches and it leads me to believe fastballs will eat him up as he ascends, if not already.
He has fringe-average pop that’ll show itself in games infrequently, mediocre speed that lacks instincts on the basepaths and a below-average hit tool that’s capped thanks to his poor two-strike approach.
Andrew Sopko, RHP
A seventh-round pick in 2015, Sopko profiles as a depth starter thanks to his ability to spot his 91-93 mph fastball while mixing in a slider and curveball. His pitches grade between average to above-average and he has solid command and control. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds he’s got a good frame to eat innings. He might start the year in Double-A but should reach Buffalo by midseason with the chance to contribute major league innings in 2020.