Dodgers 2016 Season Preview: Yasmani Grandal
In the next preview, I take a look at the Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal and his hot and cold first year in Blue
After heading north from San Diego in the Matt Kemp trade, Yasmani Grandal started out the 2015 season as a legitimate MVP candidate. The offseason trade that netted the new starting catcher was met with skepticism due to a history of knee trouble. That was all put behind him with a .282/.401/.526 triple slash with 14 home runs in the first half that got him voted in as a very deserving All Star. Combine that production with his youth and pitch framing ability, and Grandal seemed to be establishing himself as an elite catcher in the game.
The tear he was on came to a screeching halt in early August when he was hit in the shoulder by a foul ball. The injury would eventually require offseason surgery, but he continued to play and finished the season. The 27-year old Cuban posted a not pretty .162/.280/.218 slash line in the second half of the season while playing through the injury. He was in visible pain during at-bats, but he soldiered on and finished with a .234/.353/.403 line, a career high 16 home runs, and an OPS+ of 111. OPS+ is a stat that accounts for a player’s ballpark and compares them to a league average of 100. As I mentioned before, Grandal would undergo surgery in the offseason to repair his A/C joint and luckily avoided needing labrum repair, a surgery notorious for sapping power.
2016 Role and Steamer Projections
The Dodgers have no shortage of wild cards on offense and Grandal is one of them. He figures to go into the season as the starting catcher, but the Dodgers will need him to hit the ground running and play like he did before his injury.
Steamers doesn’t really like his chances to repeat his first half production though. He’s projected to put up a .241/.347/.410 triple slash, which is eerily similar to his 2015 line and is nearly identical to his career line of .241/.351/.409. To go along with that slash line, he’s projected to hit 14 long balls and be worth 2.5 WAR.
What Could Go Wrong?
Having a catcher that can give you above average offense is a valuable commodity to have, and Grandal fits the bill perfectly. His ability to provide extra offense from a spot not normally known for it can’t be overlooked. If he was to get injured again and his offensive production tailed off, the Dodgers would be left with AJ Ellis and Austin Barnes at the major league level.
Both are capable back-ups with their own positives and negatives. Ellis brings a strong relationship with the pitching staff, particularly Clayton Kershaw, and Barnes brings the defensive versatility of being able to play second and third base. When it comes to offense though, neither has shown to be able to match what Grandal brings to the table. In short, no one else the Dodgers can march out at catcher can quite match the offense that Grandal could bring.
Next: Season Preview: Yaisel Sierra
What Could Go Right?
If Grandal can even come close to his fist half of 2015 offensively, the Dodgers would get a huge boost. Being the player he was pre-injury last year is no guarantee, but the fact that his decline in production coincided pretty closely with his injury gives us hope that he can be that player once again now that his shoulder has been surgically repaired.
The knee that had so many worrying whether he would make it through a season seemed to hold up fine in 2015, and his shoulder injury seemed to be a fluke thing. According to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, Grandal hasn’t been limited by his shoulder this spring and has new catching gear to help protect him in 2016. Grandal staying healthy the entire season seems possible, and with health could come big offensive numbers. With so many question marks on offense, the Dodgers could use any help they can get when it comes to scoring runs.