Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal is Major Key to Lineup Success
By Hector Ponce
Yasmani Grandal looks to help power the Dodgers to yet another NL West title.
Since his arrival from San Diego, Grandal has been one of the most overlooked pieces of this Dodger team. When he was acquired during the 2014 Winter Meetings, most discussed the departure of fan favorite Matt Kemp, rather than the arrival of the switch-hitting catcher. Grandal was able to keep fans at ease with the trade by playing his way to the 2015 All Star Game.
His phenomenal first-half in 2015 was what got him into his first and only All Star Game. Unfortunately he had a significant drop-off in the second-half of the season due to a shoulder injury. In 2016, however, he was the exact opposite, as he had a poor first-half and a great second-half. He’s shown that when he’s hot, he can be a top-tier catcher, but when he is cold, it can be hard to watch.
2017 is a big year for Grandal. Depending on what he does this year, he can either be viewed as a top-3 catcher or an inconsistent player with plenty of talent. Going into Spring Training, he looked dedicated to doing anything possible in efforts of helping his game, as he came in 20 pounds lighter than normal.
Grandal also continued to work on his right-handed swing this Spring Training. He, like much of the Dodger lineup in 2016, struggled against left-handed pitching. The switch-hitter’s main issue against left-handed pitching was the lack of power. He hit just 4 of his 27 long balls from the right side of the plate.
The Dodgers have been mediocre, at best, against left-handed pitching, and this is due to the fact that the lineup is heavily left-handed. Thus, Grandal needs to make significant improvement from the right side of the plate in order for the team to grow against lefties. If Yasmani is able to create the same amount of power from the right side as he does from the left side, this lineup will be a whole lot scarier when going up against a southpaw.
Grandal has been one of the main power sources for the Dodgers, as he tied for the team lead in home runs (27) last season. With his threat to go deep at any given time, it is not only important for him to have a big year, but also for the rest of the team. If he is on his game, it makes the rest of the lineup much more dangerous, as he will be able to create protection for the middle of the lineup.
A lot has been made of his very low average, but first off, the Dodgers don’t need him to be getting on-base as often as the top of the lineup. Rather, they need him to drive in runs. Secondly, he may not have a high average but he led the team in walks last year. This low AVG. and high OBP. show two things: he is very patient when he is up to bat, and when he swings, he is not getting cheated. Yasmani swings as hard as he can every single time he sees a pitch he likes.
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Unfortunately for Grandal, the hard swings he takes cause a lot of swings and misses. Not only misses but weak contact. He is swinging for power on every pitch, so the long and hard swings may cause him to hit weak fly balls because his long swing comes through the zone slow. But ultimately, Grandal is at his best when taking these types of hacks. This is because he is in the lineup to hit home runs and drive in runs, so we won’t see his AVG. increase significantly unless he shortens his swing, which seems unlikely at this point.
What we can expect is for Grandal to put up 25+ home runs and hover around a .235 AVG, as he usually does. If he does remain consistent and isn’t only showing up for one half of the season, we will see those numbers move to 35+ home runs and a .245 AVG.
Aside from being important in the lineup, he is also a big part of this team defensively. He is considered by many to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game. He was second only to Buster Posey when it came to pitch-framing in 2016 according to Baseball Prospectus. Those borderline strikes can be a major game changers.
Grandal is also doing something new this year. He will be catching the ace Clayton Kershaw more consistently. In years past AJ Ellis was Kershaw’s “personal catcher”, but now with Ellis gone, Grandal will be catching the majority of games for Clayton. This relationship will prove to be very important to the team, because if Kershaw is able to trust Grandal like he did Ellis, these battery mates can be deadly to opposing teams.
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In conclusion, Grandal is a key component to this lineup and defense. If he is able to maintain his power and translate that power to his right-handed swing, this team will be primed for a World Series run.