As we ponder offseason roster transactions, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal is a major person of interest.
Budget constraints are the talk of the town. The days of the Dodgers going all in on an offseason are over, at least for now. These are the days of squeezing every last drop of juice out of our Dodger-blue berry. Now more than ever, 2018 is about making the best out of what the Dodgers already have in-house. Subsequently, never before has one player been more pivotal to a team’s fortune than a certain individual is to the Dodgers this year. The entire future of the Dodgers 2018 season hinges on catcher Yasmani Grandal.
OK, I’m getting carried away with hyperbole. At the same time, in this particular belt-tightening offseason through which Dodger fans are toiling, Yasmani Grandal is a major person of interest. His salary has potential to be transferred elsewhere should a sensible trade opportunity arise. Grandal represents a true asset. However, he might easily make the Dodgers better by just staying in Los Angeles and doing what he does. Could Grandal’s full value be better realized as the Dodgers starting catcher rather than being written off like some sort of tax deduction?
Yasmani Grandal provides the Dodgers lineup with a threat to hit the ball out of the park during any given at-bat. Throughout his professional career, Grandal has always been at least proximate to the MLB average in terms of slugging percentage. In particular, over the past two seasons as a Dodger, Grandal has elevated his slugging numbers to be well above average. He slugged .477 in 2016 and .459 in 2017 compared to MLB averages of .417 in 2016 and .426 in 2017. After only three seasons since being traded from San Diego to LA, he has accumulated 65 home runs as a Dodger.
With recent power numbers that have trended above what is the league average and a career on-base percentage of .339, you can plainly see that Yasmani Grandal is a solidly above-average major league hitter. More amazing than that is, combined with the hitting ability, there’s the fact that he’s a fine defensive catcher, too.
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Yasmani Grandal is renowned for his pitch framing excellence. He is able to use a street magician-like sleight of hand to bamboozle umpires on a regular basis; turning questionable pitches and even outright balls into called strikes. Clayton Kershaw appreciates that kind of attention to detail. He pitches almost exclusively to Grandal – whether by request or by scheduling coincidence, I don’t know. While not easily quantified, Baseball Prospectus has a statistic for Framing Runs. Ranking by the Framing Runs stat shows Grandal has never been lower than fourth in all of baseball in the category while a Dodger. An All-Star nod in 2015 was partially due to that famous pitch framing prowess when he was ranked as the best in the business in that specific skill set.
Austin “Sam” Barnes is the next in line behind Grandal on the Dodgers depth chart. Barnes is an athletic catcher who can hit and run the bases and can even play some infield. Barnes might be ready to catch on a number of major league teams. On the 2018 Dodgers, though, he most likely is a member of one of baseball’s most over-qualified benches unless Grandal is traded or injured.
I’m all for the Dodgers standing pat and going into 2018 with the roster as-is. If they keep Yasmani Grandal on board, as it appears they will, the team stands to be stronger on offense and defense than without him. Circumstance will dictate if a change is in order at some point in 2018. The trading of Grandal would free up some available spending cash from the team’s projected payroll budget, but the benefit might not be enough to offset the loss as the Dodgers look to win baseball games in 2018.