Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts has been silently managing a tough position battle. The position battle I’m referring to is a battle behind the plate.
Yasmani Grandal has been the mainstay behind the plate for the Dodgers since he was acquired from the Padres 2 years ago. He has been a productive player with the bat and arguably the most productive player in the league with a catcher’s glove. With Austin Barnes starting to show his potential and playing himself into a job, there becomes a question of what is the best way to utilize both of these productive players?
While it may be fun to watch a switch hitter like Grandal, sometimes you wonder if they should be a switch hitter at all. Grandal has hit 15 home runs this year, 13 of them have come from the left-hand side of the batter’s box against right-handed pitchers. Granted, it has come in 190 more plate appearances, but the best way to utilize Grandal is to keep him on his strong side of the plate.
Barnes does not have the luxury of being able to bat from both sides of the plate so, he starts on days the opponent throws a lefty. Barnes is not an extreme split type player like Grandal so he can get playing time against a pitcher of any handedness, but the Dodgers would prefer to give Barnes more days off than not. With that being said, Barnes is the best catching option for the Dodgers against lefties.
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With both players, you don’t lose much behind the plate as they both are extremely high rated pitch framers, and have helped out this pitching staff tremendously. With both playing at a productive level, it’s hard to make the decision of who to start on any given day. But, when it comes down to it, the answer is easy they have to be platooned.
The Dodgers have basically been using a platoon setup since Barnes came up the bigs this year, but Grandal is still getting the majority of the playing time. And until Grandal’s contract expires after next season, the Dodgers will continue to follow this two-catcher mold. There’s a lot to be said about this “problem” that the Dodgers have on their hands, but it’s a very good problem to have.
This just goes to show another part of the Dodgers depth and how they are able to utilize their depth to their advantage. On most other teams in the league, Barnes is a starter and a good one at that. But here, he’s limited as a platoon piece for the best team in baseball.
This platoon has worked out well so far for the team as they have seen a .902 OPS out of Barnes against lefties and a .806 OPS from Grandal against righties. This will be extremely valuable when the playoffs come around as the Dodgers have a strength for any pitcher they see. So don’t be surprised when Grandal gets the start against Scherzer and Strasburg but Barnes gets the start against Gonzalez, the Dodgers are purely using their catching duo to their advantage.
Gone are the days where you don’t have someone breathing down your neck for your starting job. Barnes may be the catcher of the future of the Dodgers, but Yasmani Grandal is the catcher of now and when they are both productive players in 2017, you need to find a way to fit them both in. Trust this team, they know what they are doing and a platoon behind the plate shows you that.