Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dodgers ink former Astros' prospect J.R. Towles to minor-league contract

The Dodgers on Wednesday signed former Houston Astros top prospect J.R. Towels to a minor-league deal. Don't worry, A.J. Ellis' job is plenty safe.

Towles, a catcher, has played in parts of five seasons in the majors and has posted a horrific .187/.267/.315 triple slash.

Towles, 29, is nothing more than minor-league depth, if you consider a catcher who can't hit depth. He has a career .284/.381/.453 line in the minors and had a .942 OPS in 19 games with the Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals Triple-A affiliate) this season. He played in the Twins' minor-league system in 2011.

With Tim Federowicz ripping up Triple-A pitching, he shouldn't be long for the Pacific Coast League. Matt Wallach is the Isotopes' backup catcher after the club cut ties with Jesus Flores earlier this month.

The fact the Dodgers signed Towles to any kind of deal shows the complete lack of catching depth in the organization. Perhaps that's an area the Dodgers will address in next week's MLB Draft and the subsequent international signing period.

In theory, Towles is going to Triple-A Albuquerque to replace Federowicz, who should be displacing Ramon Hernandez in Los Angeles. In actuality, Towles is going to replace Matt Wallach, who will be demoted to Double-A and will likely replace Jan Vazquez.

The Dodgers really need Gorman Erickson to regain his flash of goodness from 2011 or for Pratt Maynard to take off behind the plate. Guys like Eric Smith and Tyle Ogle aren't good bets for long-term production behind the plate, even though I like Smith as a potential sleeper going forward.

Photo credit: SBoyd, Flickr


  1. Dustin,
    Think you are right on with moving FedEx back to LAD for AJ's back-up and using Towles as a AAA fill-in. The Dodgers have drafted catching talent, 2 Johnny Bench award finalists (O'Brien, Ogle) and a winner (Wise). The problem is there's been no real investment to develop them. Logan White is the only proven catcher development guy and he's been too focused on pitchers the last 5 years.
    Why you keep a candle lit for Smith with only 2 yrs of catching experience and sub .250 avg. is a mystery to me. Sorry, not drinkin' the kool-aid. And how Wallach, Vazquez, and O'Brien can keep a roster spot at High A and AA hitting .190 is another example of LAD management asleep at the wheel. These 3 guys need better hitting instructors. Dodgers drafted the #1 catcher in '09, JT Wise and then decided 2 yrs later he'd be a better 6ft. 1st baseman?? Maynard was drafted as another late in life convert to catching and not yeilding desired results. And you think that drafting another young talent in '13 is going to work with the same approach that isn't developing these other cathers?? Isn't that the definition of insantity...

    The last 2 yrs, Griff Erickson at 25 and Tyler Ogle at 22 are the only 2 catchers from A to AA to show they can hit for power and OBP with raw talent. Here's a novel idea. Put those 2 guys on the same team with focused hitting and catching coaching, and let them push each other. I'd wager something special comes out for the near future.

    1. To my recollection, the Dodgers haven't spent a lot of high picks on catchers. Pratt Maynard was a third-rounder, but that's about it.

      If the Dodgers used a high pick on a higher-ceiling catcher, that player might have a better chance of being successful.

      Either that it Logan White can't develop catching prospects, as you've pointed out.

  2. Smith showed some decent potential, albeit against rookie-league players. Was hoping he'd use his on-base ability to be A.J. Ellis-like.

  3. JR is a good person and a good defensive catcher. He used to be a decent hitter...who knows what happens to these guys on their trips through various league's and teams?