Dodgers: Yasmani Grandal Not Ready to Relinquish Starting Role
The Dodgers have the luxury of having two very good catchers. While Austin Barnes took over the starting role late last year, Yasmani Grandal is still viewed as the starting catcher.
Entering the offseason, many thought the Dodgers every day starting catcher role belonged to Austin Barnes. Barnes took over the everyday role late last season and throughout the post-season, he was the workhorse at the catcher position. Yasmani Grandal received only three at-bats in the World Series with all three coming in pinch-hit appearances.
At the very beginning of spring training, Dave Roberts said that Grandal was still the favorite to be the starting catcher. Of course the phrase “starting catcher” is just a label. The Dodgers figure to give both Barnes and Grandal a lot of playing time and even if Grandal is the everyday starter it would not be surprising if Barnes received at least two starts a week. The fresher that both starters stay, the better results the Dodgers will get from their pair of excellent catchers.
For Yasmani Grandal this is a very crucial year for him as he is entering his first ever contract year. Given this offseason’s strange free-agent market, there is no guarantee that Grandal will get a big contract offer next offseason unless he posts a solid season. In Grandal’s favor, is that he is an excellent pitch framer and has elite power for the starting catcher position. There are not many catchers in the game who are capable of hitting twenty plus home runs a season.
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Working against Grandal is that he will be thirty years old this season so he will likely have to settle for a two to a three-year deal. Grandal is also a switch hitter although he is a much better power hitter when he bats left-handed. For his career, Grandal has 77 home runs batting left-handed, and only 12 home runs hitting right-handed.
Grandal also needs to avoid a second-half decline. In 2017, Grandal only hit .217 in the second half and in September he was absolutely atrocious as he hit only .159 with a .267 on-base percentage. In 2016 his second-half decline wasn’t as pronounced but in 2015, Grandal hit under .200 in the second half of the regular season. Whether it be injury related or something else, Grandal needs to find a way to cure his post all-star break struggles.
This winter Grandal stuck to a much stricter diet and turned his workout regimen towards more powerlifting. It’s unknown if this will help Yasmani stay healthy this season but he definitely came into camp looking more fit and slimmed down. The Dodgers will get all-star level production from both Barnes and Grandal if they are both healthy and competing for starts. Barnes seemed to fade in the postseason and due to his smaller frame, he is not built to start the lion’s share of games like Grandal is.
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Both catchers are off to a slow start this spring but in Sunday’s game, Yasmani Grandal hit a right-handed home run off former Dodger Tony Watson, so that is a very good sign. If Grandal refined his right-handed swing to go along with his powerful left-handed swing, then he will provide plenty of power for the Dodgers this season. While Austin Barnes is a very talented catcher, Grandal is the starting catcher entering the season and he is not going to give up his starting role that easily.