Having A.J. Ellis in the clubhouse was a big boost for the San Diego Padres and his stick was a pleasant surprise.
Baseball players like A.J. Ellis rarely get the credit they deserve. His stat sheet isn’t impressive, he isn’t an everyday player, and he doesn’t strike fear into any pitcher he faces. However, AJ Ellis made a big impact on the roster in 2018 and must now contemplate either retirement, testing the free agent market, or returning to the San Diego Padres in a very minimal capacity.
After spending his first 10 years in the league with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies (11 games), and Miami Marlins, Ellis signed with the Padres last winter as a free agent to back up starting catcher Austin Hedges.
Ellis had a fantastic season at the plate, considering his limited role. In 66 appearances, Ellis hit .272 with a .378 OBP, and .722 OPS. He finished with a wRC+ of 105 and a fWAR of 0.8. I’m sure fans can point to a number of starters and wish they would have put up these kinds of numbers this season. He logged eight doubles, one home run, and finished with 26 walks, compared to just 37 strikeouts in 183 plate appearances.
Back in July, Katie Woo wrote about the relationship Ellis and Austin Hedges formed this season, with Hedges being quoted as saying,
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"“I go to him for advice almost every day,” Hedges said. “He’s been doing this for so long and had so much success, especially working with pitchers. A lot of times I don’t even need to ask. He’s there to help by mentioning something he sees. We have a very good, trustworthy relationship that I feel like we can say anything to each other.”"
With Francisco Mejia now on the roster, showcasing his exciting skillset, and with no imminent plans to move Mejia from behind the plate, it would appear that the San Diego Padres have no use in attempting to bring Ellis back, who is one of just two active roster players from 2018 who are now free agents.
Should the Padres try and sign Ellis? While he provided Hedges with valuable lessons and could do the same for Mejia, it is hard to justify using a valuable roster spot on Ellis in 2019. He has yet to give any indication that he is going to hang up his cleats and is sure to draw some interest out on the open market, especially after the season he had in 2018. Besides, it is time Austin Hedges takes control as a leader on this team.
Next up we take a look at Carlos Asuaje and whether or not he has a role on next year’s squad.