Catcher may be the most frustrating position to fill as you annually prepare for the fantasy baseball season. Realistically, there are only a handful of impact bats who are catcher-eligible in most leagues and unless you are lucky enough to snag one it may be difficult to find a catcher who will positively contribute to your team. Even elite catchers aren’t with out flaws. If one hits a lot of home runs, his average usually suffers (See, Santana, Carlos). A high batting average is usually coupled with middling power, and even superb seasons like Napoli’s 2011 or Posey’s 2010 don’t give your team any steals. Despite playing in PETCO park, Yasmani Grandal projects to be an solid option behind the dish for your fantasy team.
I spoke to one NL Talent Evaluator who assured me that Grandal has the ability to remain at catcher. His arm is a weapon behind the plate, but there are valid concerns that his footwork and blocking ability are lacking. This evaluator, who has followed Grandal since high school, believes it may take Grandal a few years to polish his craft but projects the young Cuban to be an average defensive catcher.
The biggest issue with comparing Grandal to the rest of the population of fantasy starting catchers is the variance in starting catcher slots leagues employ. I will be evaluating Grandal in the context of the more restrictive a one-catcher league. Once again, I’ve determined the statistics of an average catcher by averaging the projected totals of the top 15 catchers. The average line for a catcher in a 5X5 league is .265 BA – 65 RBI – 65 Runs – 2 SB – 17 HR. Of course, if you’re in a two-catcher league these numbers are severely depressed, increasing Grandal’s worth.
Batting Average: At four minor league stops, Grandal has never hit below .296 and detractors point to a career .370 BABIP as evidence he’s been fairly lucky. It’s hard to say whether or not he’s been lucky, but a .370 BABIP is outside a sustainable range. BABIP aside, Grandal’s hit tool is very real. He employs a level swing with good loft and his bat stays in the hitting zone for a long period of time. He excels at letting the ball travel deep in the zone, dropping the barrel of the bat on the ball and going the other way. The biggest issue facing Grandal’s potential ability to hit for a high batting average is his platoon split. He struggles mightily from the right side of the plate. As to be expected, I saw Gradal significantly more of the left side of the plate but in the ten plate appearances I saw as a right-handed batter, his swing looked longer, he started his hands forward later and, at times, he dove into the ball with his lead shoulder. The platoon split is something to keep an eye on going forward, but expect Grandal to be a .275-.285 hitter.
Batting Average (League Average .265 – BA): Above Average
Home Runs: In 2011, Grandal hit 10 home runs in the California League with the Bakersfield Blaze (current home to Reds’ shortstop Billy Hamilton). Of course, the California League is known for it’s high octane offenses and Historic Sam Lynn Ballpark’s park factors do nothing to dispel that notion. The park’s home run park factors (123 LHH/124 RHH according to statcorner.com) in a hitters’ league had some calling Grandal’s past power output an illusion. The Cuban’s 2012 debut was delayed due to a hamstring issue and thus far he has three home runs, two opposite field wall scrappers (approximately 335 ft a piece) and one bomb to deep right field (approximately 410 ft). Grandal is a muscular guy, but he’s more of a line drive hitter with loft and leverage in his swing than a traditional slugger. That doesn’t mean he lacks power projection but rather that he isn’t going to kill your team’s batting average for power. Trust me, you would rather trade a handful of home runs for thirty to fifty points of batting average, if your team is going to be successful. The biggest issue facing Grandal’s power projection, he projects to hit around 17-22 bombs a year, is obvious. The NL West and PETCO Park (59 LHH / 95 RHH HR park factor). Due to this, expect him to be on the low end of the spectrum but don’t be surprised if the park doesn’t suppress his totals.
Homeruns (League Average – 17): Average
Runs Scored and Runs Batted In: The Padres offense has been anemic for years, in part because of PETCO but also because they’ve lacked talent. Yonder Alonso is an on base machine, but due his lack of power Grandal should bat behind him. Headley has a similar statistical profile to Alonso so it would be best to have Grandal, who has the most pop of the trio, bat fourth or fifth if they acquire another bat. With very high OBP guys batting in front of him, Grandal will have ample RBI opportunities. However, like the other two, Grandal also has an immense batting eye so don’t be surprised if he is often walking to first instead of driving runners in. If he wasn’t destined to be starting for the Padres his plate discipline would bode very well for his run scoring ability, alas, he is currently in the Padres system and it doesn’t look like there will be thumpers behind him to drive him in.
Runs Batted In (League Average – 65): Well Above Average
Runs Scored (League Average – 65): Average
Impact catchers are hard to find and outside of PETCO I’d be confident in saying that Grandal would be a peer of Santana, Napoli, Posey and the like. But, PETCO will suppress his homerun totals just enough to slot the Cuban in the next tier. If Grandal is able to figure out his right-handed swing, that would bolster his batting average and maybe even his home run total too. Even so, his proximity to the major leagues, a late 2012 or 2013 ETA, makes him a very valuable asset to any fantasy team.
Prospect Video of the Week
Good friend and colleague Al Skorupa (@alskor) took some amazing video of Duke Right-Hander Marcus Stroman. Stroman profiles as a first rounder in the Rule 4 Draft which takes place in two weeks.