A.J. Ellis: All-Star?

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The Dodgers picked up their MLB-best 31st victory on Saturday when catcher A.J. Ellis hit a walkoff three-run shot against the Astros’ Wesley Wright.

The heroics are nothing new this year for Ellis.

A 31-year-old former 18th-round pick, he’s batting .317/.442/.517 with five home runs, seven doubles and 23 RBI through 149 plate appearances. And here’s the current leaderboard for FanGraphs’ version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement):

A.J. Ellis – 2.5
Carlos Ruiz – 2.4
Yadier Molina – 1.9
Jonathan Lucroy – 1.9
A.J. Pierzynski – 1.8
Joe Mauer – 1.5
Matt Wieters – 1.4
Buster Posey – 1.2
Carlos Santana – 1.2
Brian McCann – 0.9

Ellis isn’t as consistently great on defense as Ruiz or Molina, but he’s thrown out 16 of 35 would-be base stealers and certainly seems deserving of his first National League All-Star nod. “This is the greatest moment of my personal baseball career,” Ellis told the Associated Press shortly after Saturday’s walkoff. “It’s really humbling, just to be a part of where this team is headed right now. It feels real special.”

Former Yankees prospect Manny Banuelos signs a minor league deal with the Dodgers

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Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.

OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.

It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.