I have been writing about Hunter Feduccia for a couple of years now. He was a 12th round draft pick in 2018 out of LSU. I love LSU baseball (okay I love a lot of college baseball teams). But LSU is at the top of my non-USC list for baseball. Thus I started to follow him. His path started out well, but like a lot of MiLB players, his career was seemingly derailed in 2020 with no MiLB.
In 2021, his first year post COVID, was an okay year. 2022 his OPS got to .800 at Tulsa and .795 at OKC. In 2023, he received a MLB invite to ST, and produced. He was assigned to OKC and had a fantastic start to the season.
After his first 13 games, with 56 PA/40 AB, Hunter was batting .400/.554/.775/1.329, 3 doubles, 4 HR, 15 BB, 11 K. He had an unsustainable BAbip of .462. He was expected to cool off, but what he did was to go ice cold. In his next 11 games, with 43 PA/38 AB, Hunter has accumulated a batting line of .184/.279/.290/.569, 1 double, 1 HR, 5 BB, 12 K. His BAbip over those 11 games was .240, which would indicate that he was hitting into some bad luck.
For the season, with 99 PA/78 AB, Hunter is batting .295/.434/.539/.973, 4 doubles, 5 HR, 20 BB, 23 K, and a BAbip of .353. That BAbip is still a bit high, and well over what his BAbip has been, but not out of the realm. The OPS is undoubtedly high as both OBP and SLG are probably not sustainable.
Last year at the baseball age of 25, Hunter batted .238/.331/.466/.797, BAbip at .278, combined at AA and AAA.
At the same age as Hunter was last year, a ML backup catcher batted .315/.389/.480/.869 in AAA. The next year that catcher was in MLB for most of the year. That catcher…Austin Barnes.
The point is, some out there want to take a 13 game stretch at the beginning of a season and let that translate into what that player will do over a full season. Thus the call to bring up Feduccia and move Smith to 3B/LF. Pitchers like the way Smith calls a game, and his receiving skills are getting better every year. His blocking skills are also getting better. He went from 9 PB in 2021, to 4 last year, to 1 thus far this year. His career fielding % is .997. His SB/CS are not good, but that is more on the pitcher than on Smith (or Barnes). Smith’s pop time is 1.93, good for 12th in MLB. His exchange is 0.66, good for 6th in MLB. His arm is 81.8 or 23rd in MLB. Those metrics should indicate that the SB/CS are more of a product of the inability of the pitcher to hold runners. Smith may not be an elite defensive catcher, but he is still a very good one. No reason to move.
Hunter Feduccia will become a decent to good MLB backup catcher. Good backup catchers seem to have a long shelf life in MLB. His longevity will largely depend on his catching skills. His catching production numbers are improving every year. His CS rate is 23.8%. Only 1 PB and 1 error this year, compared to 10 PB and 10 errors in 2019. Last year, Hunter’s CS rate was 12.4% (13 out of 105), 0 errors and 5 PB. I do not know his pop time, exchange, or arm metrics to compare.
I have been in Austin Barnes’ corner all along, and as long as the Dodgers are winning, and are doing so because of pitching, I will continue to back Barnes. Especially since the LAD pitchers love to throw to him (and the Mexico pitchers at the WBC). We all know that Clayton Kershaw prefers to pitch to Barnes. Last year that was not as much of an issue because Smith could slide over to DH in those games. This year it is more of an issue because the Dodgers have JDM in that full-time DH role.
But I too am frustrated with Austin’s excruciatingly painful to watch offensive AB’s. I am sure that it is as painful for Barnes as it is for the fans. But his primary function is to call games for pitchers. We all know how Clayton Kershaw feels with Austin. The Dodgers do not get to the 2020 WS without winning Games 6. Walker Buehler ran into trouble in the 2nd inning allowing 3 consecutive singles to load the bases. Barnes went out to talk with Buehler, and from that point on, he let Barnes dictate the game. He proceeded to strike out Austin Riley and Nick Markakis, and then get Cristian Pache to hit a 6-3 ground out and got out of the inning. Buehler finished 6.0 shutout innings on 7 hits, 0 BB, and 6 K and after the game gave credit to Barnes.
This year for Clayton Kershaw:
- With Barnes – 6 G, 39.0 IP, 9 R, 7 ER, 25 H, 3 BB, 45 K, 5 HR – 1.62 ERA, 0.718 WHIP
- With Smith – 2 G, 10.2 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 12 H, 7 BB, 11 K, 2 HR – 5.06 ERA, 1.78 WHIP
Coincidence? Maybe. Too small sample size? Sure. But it does seem to show that Kershaw is very comfortable with Barnes. Barnes knows Kershaw. They work very well together. BTW, Clayton has gone out of his way to state that he does like pitching to Smith. But the innate relationship between Clayton and Austin is very prevalent.
A few years back, some of the same people that were calling for Smith to move so that Keibert Ruiz can become the catcher. There is very little comparison between the two bats (Smith and Ruiz), but Smith is also the superior catcher defensively.
- Will Smith – 1.93 (12th)
- Austin Barnes – 2.00 (34th)
- Keibert Ruiz – 2.03 (44th)
- Austin Barnes – 0.64 (3rd)
- Will Smith – 0.66 (6th)
- Keibert Ruiz – 0.72 (27th)
- Will Smith – 81.8 (23rd)
- Keibert Ruiz – 77.3 (46th)
- Austin Barnes – 75.4 (51st)
Blocking Above Average:
- Will Smith – 1 (23rd)
- Austin Barnes – 0 (34th)
- Keibert Ruiz – (-2) (56th)
Diego Cartaya is the next in line for the regular catching spot. Some have even called on him to get the call now. Diego first started playing professional baseball in 2019. Since then he has appeared in 196 games, 880 PA, and 739 AB. Since many of those PA and AB occurred as a DH, his innings behind the plate have been limited to 972.
- His career batting metrics – .263/.372/.488/.860
The biggest jump in MiLB is to AA. Thus far in Diego’s inaugural season in AA, in 91 PA and 78 AB, his batting line is – .205/.297/.372/.669. His numbers will improve, but he is a long way from being ready to become the MLB regular catcher for LAD.
For now, I am very comfortable with Will Smith as the primary catcher and Austin Barnes as his backup (and Clayton Kershaw caddy). I see no reason to change. If the team begins to go on to a sustained losing streak, that opinion could change.
It appears that AF knew who the best catcher was between Smith and Ruiz. I will let him decide who it should be going forward.
Last night’s win epitomized why this team is so special. The wins are great, but it is the way they are winning that makes it extraordinary.
· Noah Syndergaard is able to go 4.0 IP. That is 3.0 innings better than his last outing. He threw 59 pitches. The team doctors will take a look at it on Tuesday and assess where he is at.
· Will Smith and Max Muncy gave the Dodgers the early look as if they were going to run away and hide.
· The bullpen has been so good of late, it was odd seeing how ineffective they were on Monday. It is easy to blame the bullpen, but s*** happens.
· 2 blown saves: one by Almonte and one by Phillips.
· Phil Bickford, who has not pitched in 6 days was wild when he first entered the game. With the free runner at 2B, a BB, a botched bunt play (by Phil) called a bunt single to load the bases, then a 4 pitch walk to force in the run.
· After the walk, Bickford struck out Solano and Kirilloff and then got Michael Taylor to fly out.
· Down 8-7, JD Martinez singles on an 0-2 pitch off uber reliever Jhoan Durán to score the free runner, Will Smith, to tie the game again.
· Bickford came out for two more innings and shut down the Twins offense. He went head to head against two of the best relievers in all of MLB…Jhoan Durán, and Jorge López. Phil threw 48 pitches (27 strikes), the most pitches he has thrown in a MLB game.
· And it was López who intentionally walked Freddie Freeman and later Max Muncy so as to get to Trayce Thompson. Trayce has been a mess, but he had a couple of good takes and was able to induce a walk for López to force in a run in a walk off.
· Will Smith and Max Muncy were the early heroes. Later it was David Peralta and JDM. Finally it was two unexpected…Phil Bickford and Trayce Thompson.
· Big win while all NL West teams won. 6 in a row. 10 straight at home. Remain best team in NL, and have now passed Baltimore for 2nd best team in MLB.
· WILL SMITH NEEDS TO BE EXTENDED. BEST OVERALL CATCHER IN MLB.
And, then there are games like the one that we just lost. At least 3 stolen bases against Barnes. Teams get ready to attack him on the bases. Sure, we are winning most games, but it still annoys me to see that he can’t throw anyone out not to mention that he is really struggling offensively. Hard to imagine we can’t do better. Grandal, whom I didn’t like, was way better than Barnes but the fanbase never warmed to him. Is Kershaw the only reason Barnes is still with the Dodgers? We need an upgrade, please. This team is carrying several poor producers in the mix. I can only imagine what it would be like to swap out some of these players with those who can actually hit.
100% agree on the suggestion that Will Smith get extended. Dodgers need to keep their own developed talent such as Buehler, Smith, Urias etc.
Pains me to see Seager in a Rangers uniform and to a lesser extent Bellinger (although I had no problem not offering him arbitration).
I don’t think anyone is calling for Cartaya to be called up now. The foolish thought is to suggest bringing up Feduccia and moving Smith to LF. We’re fortunate to have these guys and Yeinar Fernandez might be the next Austin Barnes in 3-4 ears. Galiz & Liranzo are prospects too.
Bullpen goes 8 innings and gives up 5 runs. Not good – on a couple of levels.
Barnes is a better hitter than he has shown. He’s not a good hitter, but he’s better than this.
Smith is OPSn over 1.000. Can that continue? I doubt it. But he is an All Star and should be extended if possible.
Feduccia. Lost in the wilderness.
The lineup after Muncy – 4 for 24. But they did score twice.
Outman’s ballon appears to have landed.
Vargas picked again. What’s up with that?
Muncy with yet another gaff at third. Not an error. In my opinion should have been.
Walk off walk. Yippee.
11 for 45 (.244) and 9 runs. This is who we are.
It’s a W. The Dodgers continue to find ways.
Outman has learned to lay off the fastball above the zone but is still missing pitches in the zone that should be at least tipped. He is not extending at bats with foul balls. Is pepper the answer?
This has always been Outman’s issue. He did not chase as much as others have, but he missed a lot in the zone.
Barnes is a terrible hitter but he’s a back-up catcher so it doesn’t matter.
Yes, the bullpen was bad on Monday. Monday seems to be a bad night for LAD relievers. So while we can (and do) recognize how poorly most of the relievers did on Monday, can we also acknowledge how fantastic they have been in the previous 15 games up until last night?
15 games – 52.1 IP.
· Scoreless in 8 games.
· 1 run each in 5 games.
· 2 runs in 1 game (the 8.0 inning bullpen game).
· 6 runs in 1 game (the disaster in Milwaukee last Monday).
Overall ERA for those 15 games and 52.1 reliever IP = 2.24.
Take out the disaster in Milwaukee – ERA = 1.25 in the other 14 games.
In that time, the Dodgers optioned 1 LHRP (Alex Vesia), and found 2 more (Justin Bruihl and Victor González) who have been outstanding.
I agree Smith will not be OPSn over 1.000 for the season. But he is now, while carrying the team (with Freddie) on his back for the last 16 games. I will take that as long as it lasts, and not forget what he has done, when he does go into that inevitable slump.
Walk off walk – I have a different take. For me, it was just another example for the Dodgers to find a way to win. After the Twins went in front 8-7, the Dodgers should not have won that game with Jhoan Durán on the mound, and yet Phil Bickford outpitched Jhoan Durán and Jorge López (on this night) and the Dodgers walked it off (literally). The team seemed to find a way to win in 2020. I see a lot of that in this team.
Just back from a long weekend in beautiful downtown Chico visiting the grandkids. Too many people strutting around in SFG apparel. I did feel sorry for those wearing A’s jerseys and caps. Not only does their team suck, they are leaving for Las Vegas.
I would like the see AF/BG improve the overall look of the BP.
Did you drink some pale ale?
My Alma Mater. Also, both my kids live there. Love that town. Many great memories – from the 70s.
A creek runs through it
Sure does. Spent a lot of time skinny dipping in Upper Bidwell Park.
I’ve been wondering if the Dodgers put a premium on catchers because they are relatively scarce (talented ones) across MLB and thus a market inefficiency.
I can’t express how lovely it is to be a fan of such a well-run franchise.
You really don’t have to do anything but sit back and enjoy.
They do seem to collect catchers in the bunches. When AF first landed in LA, the Dodgers had no catchers. AJ Ellis was the primary catcher, followed by Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz. Keibert Ruiz was still years away. They had to trade for Grandal and Barnes that first winter. Since then they have drafted and signed international free agents to stack the organization.
I do wish they would scout, draft, and sign a top shelf SS. Or take some of the excess catching and RHP and trade for a top shelf SS. Throw in a natural CF as well.
But overall? Yes, they are at the zenith of the industry in development. But it will not deter me from writing about holes that I see. And yes, I also recognize that anything I may write about (or any other blogger/commenter), AF/BG has already been studying it, and has Plans A-ZZ as to how to remedy it.
Is it just me or are prospect for prospect trades exceedingly rare? And if so, why?
I mean I wouldn’t call the White for Frasso trade a prospect for prospect trade, as White was already in MLB.
I assume it has happened, but I do not recall any prospect for prospect trade.
Next BA or Fangraphs chat, I’m going to ask….
I think so
Has Friedman waited too long to offer Smith an extension? Whatever the offer would have been before this season began, it now has to be higher.
Barnes offers a steady target with his glove and Smith never does. Kershaw liked AJ Ellis as his personal catcher and now he likes Barnes. Maybe that is his thing.
I assume Smith was screaming at Bickford to throw to first and if so, Bickford still couldn’t resist looking to third anyway. That play and Vargas getting picked off twice is annoying. Thompson getting picked off was because he was being aggressive and probably going on first move–excusable.
The worst thinking however has to go to the Twins pitcher/catcher who after watching Martinez be overmatched with two 102 mph high fastballs decides to throw one 88 mph that Martinez had a chance to hit and he hit it.
Smith is the best catcher in the majors right now period. With respect to the Phillies Realmuto, Will has established himself as damn near indispensable. Barnes is the second Caddy type catcher of CK’s career. AJ Ellis was the first.
Barnes is CK’s caddy type catcher. That is who he is. Nothing wrong with that at all. He has had a good career with that. At the conclusion of his contract next year, Barnes will have earned $13MM+ in his career. Not a bad gig for a pitcher’s personal catcher. If CK decides to finish his career in Texas, I would not be surprised to see Austin traded to Texas.
Barnes has a career slash of .218/.327/.673. I think he’ll hit that the rest of the way. And he’s only signed for 2 years $7m total after this year. If we don’t need him somebody will.
Clayton to Texas has made sense to me for a while. Maybe sticking with one team for an entire career means something to him. Only a few do that anymore
I think Kershaw knows he doesn’t need a long term contract as he doesn’t want to pitch if he can’t pitch well and Friedman will give him a big one year contract if Kershaw wants one.
That is the point…If Kershaw wants one. It will be up to Kershaw, and it is conceivable that he would like to wrap up his career in his back yard. I hope not, as I would love for CK to spend his entire career with LAD. He has always maintained that Texas is an option.
If it’s about where he finishes, that of course is up to him. If it’s about money, let’s see how he finishes.
Lost in all the shuffle is Carson Taylor who is playing at AA Tulsa. Kid was supposed to be one of the better catching prospects at one time.
People see what they want to see. One can look at the Dodgers and see a very good team and still be aware of opportunities to improve. Some will concentrate on the holes and not enjoy the good.
Perfect is the enemy of good is an aphorism which means insistence on perfection often prevents implementation of good improvements.
We can see what we want with the Dodgers or LA for that matter. LA is loaded with success, culture, and good people. It also has many that have been left behind. Perfect is the enemy of the good.
“Well, nobody’s perfect.” Osgood Fielding III
From the OKC transaction page:
05/16/23 Oklahoma City Dodgers released CF Ben DeLuzio.
05/16/23 Oklahoma City Dodgers transferred CF Bradley Zimmer to the Development List.
05/16/23 OF Andy Pages assigned to Oklahoma City Dodgers from Tulsa Drillers.
05/16/23 OF Jonny DeLuca assigned to Oklahoma City Dodgers from Tulsa Drillers.
Pages and DeLuca are now one step closer to MLB.
Gavin Stone hit a season high in innings (5.2), strikeouts (10), and average fastball velo (94.4) tonight in OKC. Had a 44% whiff rate overall (24/55 swings).