From Roy Campanella to Mike Piazza to Russell Martin, the Dodgers have had a history of grooming and developing all-star and hall-of-fame level catchers. This trend does not appear to be going away anytime soon for the Dodgers.
They currently have three capable catchers on the big league roster in Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes, and Kyle Farmer. To add to that, three out of the team’s top 15 prospects handle the backstop.
The Dodgers selected Connor Wong in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Houston. Like Austin Barnes and Kyle Farmer, Wong is a versatile and athletic catcher. He came into the University of Houston playing shortstop before moving behind the plate as a college sophomore in 2016.
WONG, GONE! Connor Wong wraps one around the left field foul pole for his 9th HR of the season! Quakes up the lead to 6-0! pic.twitter.com/1gtRBQI0Jo
— Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (@RCQuakes) May 11, 2018
Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing 181 pounds, Wong brings in quality skills at all five tools. His power is developing and he capable of hitting between 12-15 home runs at the big league level. Through his first 27 games this season in Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Wong is batting .284 with nine home runs, four stolen bases, and 22 RBI.
Selected with the 32nd pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Will Smith was the first catcher taken by the Dodgers in the first round since Paul Konerko in 1993. Drafted out of the University of Louisville following his junior year, Smith impressed scouts with his athleticism and defensive abilities.
The strongest skill for the 6-foot, 192-pound catcher is his defense. In 73 games, he threw out 48 percent of base stealers last season. Through 25 games in 2018, Smith is batting .255 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI in Double-A Tulsa.
Far and away the Dodgers top catching prospect, 19-year-old Keibert Ruiz expects to play behind the plate at Chavez Ravine for several years to come. Signing out of Venezuela on his 16th birthday, the switch-hitting Ruiz should advance through the minors thanks to his bat. Through 226 career minor league games, he owns a slash line of .323/.367/.450.
Ruiz is still a work in progress on the defensive side. With that said, he has improved, throwing out 36 percent of baserunners this year, compared to 22 percent last season. With the bat, Ruiz is batting .270 with three home runs and nine RBI in Double-A Tulsa.
For the entire Dodgers organization, catching depth is clearly one of their strengths. Even with Yasmani Grandal in the final year of his contract with the Dodgers, the team still has Austin Barnes and Kyle Farmer available on the big league roster.
In the minors, the ballclub has three more long-term options. While Connor Wong brings athleticism and versatility, Will Smith brings defensive prowess, and Keibert Ruiz provides an elite bat. Although these minor leaguers probably will not receive a call-up to the show in 2018, these prospects have the potential to be big leaguers for several years.