Yasmani Grandal came into last season as my pick to be the Dodger to have a breakout season. While the end of the season looked really bleak for Grandal, he still had a productive performance to the season to help the Dodgers reach the World Series.
Grandal finished the season with a .247/.308/.450 slash rate and hit 22 home runs, while picking up 58 RBI. Grandal played in 129 games for the Dodgers and saw over 480 plate appearances while handling the majority of the catching duties throughout the season. Grandal graded out a 2.5 WAR rating, which was good enough for sixth best on the team.
Grandal’s playing time started to decrease as the season went on and Austin Barnes continued to increase his value to the Dodgers lineup. He struggled mightily in the second half of the season, hitting only .217, including a terrible September and October where he combined ten hits in 65 at-bats.
Yaz’s splits were gradually improved during the 2016 season, but not improved enough to consider this a breakout season. Grandal hit .233 against lefties and .250 against righties. You notice the drastic splits when you look at the power numbers as Grandal hit 20 of his 22 home runs against righties. Grandal only had six extra-base hits against lefties last season. That type of production really has me questioning why he continues to try to be a switch hitter.
Overall, the offensive production was gradually improved from his 2016 season. Grandal hit over 20 home runs for the second consecutive season while improving his batting average nearly 20 points. We saw a dip in his OBP and SLG percentage, but both were in-line with his career numbers. I remember it being the middle of the June and being surprised that Grandal was hitting around .300. The final two months of the season really brought down his numbers.
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Where Grandal brings value to the team is behind the plate. In his third full season with the Dodgers, he’s really developed a relationship with Rick Honeycutt and the pitching staff. Grandal was tied for first on the team in Defensive WAR rating with a 12.6 mark.
Grandal caught 32% of base stealers, throwing out 21 out of 65 runners. We all know about Grandal’s pitch framing ability, and that really helps pitchers get deeper in games and limits their pitch count. The problem with his pitch framing skills is that he tends to focus more on framing the ball than catching the ball and that leads to passed balls. Grandal led the league with 16 passed balls last season.
Overall, Grandal’s season was considered a let down because of how productive Austin Barnes was. Barnes was an unexpected contributor to the team, and that really highlighted Grandal’s second-half struggles. There are several questions about the Dodgers catching situation moving forward, but it’s difficult to say that Grandal hasn’t produced well enough to lose his job.
Yes, the second half was bad, and yes he did have a bad postseason. But that shouldn’t eclipse the fact that he was third on the team in home runs and improved his batting average 20 points. Grandal is still considered a top 5 catcher in the league. We all know the power potential he possesses, and this season he showed that he could be a well-rounded hitter.
Grandal’s had the highest strikeout rate of the everyday players at 27%. He had a low 8.3% walk rate, and that’s not going to get it done. Grandal hasn’t played poorly enough to lose his starting job. He’s a viable starting catcher in any team and has All-Star potential. It will be interesting to see how Roberts manages this situation moving forward. Although the numbers might say otherwise, I don’t think a catching platoon is the best route because it limits the ceiling of both players.
I’ll be following closely this situation during the winter meetings as the front office should field offers on Grandal. He’s only 29-years old and is viable offensively and defensively to make an impact on a contending club. I still question Barnes durability for an entire season, so I don’t mind going into the season with these two catchers battling it out during spring training.
Grandal gets a solid B- for his performance this season. He contributed with good power numbers and stabilized the pitching staff. Grandal’s second half really hurt his overall numbers and perception from the fans. Competition brings out the best in players, so I expect Barnes and Grandal to battle it out for more playing time.