Ellis' injury could have biggest impact in MLB
Dodgers catcher is not a marquee name, but his value to LA is immeasurable
Forget your fantasy team. What if you were managing a real team, one that had some of the most talented players in baseball?
Who would you least like to lose?
Your young ace? Your slugging outfielder with MVP Award potential? Your closer? Your catcher? Your young outfielder with All-Star potential?
If somebody had to go, who would it be?
You probably wouldn't think that much about losing a guy who hit .238 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs a year ago. You sure wouldn't if this was fantasy baseball.
But those happen to be A.J. Ellis' totals, and in a week in which the Rays lost Matt Moore for the season, the Angels lost Josh Hamilton for six to eight weeks, the Yankees lost David Robertson for at least a couple weeks and the White Sox lost Avisail Garcia for the season, it's the Ellis injury that brings the most danger for his team.
Sound crazy? Maybe, especially given that Ellis tore the meniscus in his left knee, not a ligament. He could be back on the field in four to six weeks, and he could be just as good as ever by the second half of the season, when the sense of urgency picks up.
There's no doubt that the Rays are going to miss Moore, who has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and seems headed for Tommy John surgery. He will be badly missed. But the saving grace for Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is that he didn't trade David Price, and Alex Cobb and Chris Archer should be fine as No. 2 and No. 3 starters.
Tampa Bay also looks wise to have re-signed Erik Bedard after he opted out of his contract when Jake Odorizzi won the fifth-starter's job. Bedard and Cesar Ramos allow the Rays to still go six deep with starters, sans Moore.
Hamilton's injury is a killer for the Angels. Given their thin starting rotation, the best chance to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 was to get big seasons from Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Hamilton. And why not? Their combined contracts add up to $509.5 million.
Making manager Mike Scioscia's lament deeper, Hamilton was on fire when he tore a ligament in his left thumb while diving into first base. Hamilton was hitting .444 with two homers and an American League-best 1.286 OPS, seemingly turning the page after an unproductive 2013.
Robertson had looked great in Mariano Rivera's old role, but the Yankees shouldn't lose too much sleep. They caught his strained groin early and he could be back as soon as April 22.
Garcia's left shoulder should recover, but he's going to miss baseball like crazy this summer while he recovers from surgery to repair his torn labrum. The job for the White Sox is to construct a deeper roster while he's away, just as the Mets look ahead to a chance to pitch Matt Harvey alongside Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard.
As for Ellis, he's easy to overlook when you watch the Dodgers play every now and then. Almost everyone else in the lineup seems to command more attention. But spend any extended time around the Dodgers -- like a playoff series -- and it's impossible not to notice how much respect he carries in the clubhouse.
Ellis' style is completely drama-free. And on a roster full of expensive question marks, that's a great trait to have. He catches a pitching staff that can be tough to handle, and he does it well. He's got enough power to keep an opposing pitcher honest, too, and he never seems to be an easy out.
It helps that Tim Federowicz, who was Ellis' primary backup last season, was available to take over for him. Federowicz knows the staff. But Ellis is a better-than-average Major League regular in an era when catching is in short supply.
One other thing -- knee injuries aren't great news for catchers. There are no minor ones, not when you have to squat and twist around wearing spikes every night.
The biggest injuries don't always get the biggest headlines.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.