The catcher position has been an interesting position all season long. The depth at the position was hurt earlier this year when Jonathan Lucroy and Travis d’Arnaud went on the disabled list, and Matt Wieters still recovering from his elbow injury, but there have been some big surprises at the top of the catcher ranks this year in Steven Vogt and Russell Martin. Most people know Martin is a solid player, but not many expected him to have 44 runs, 10 homers, and a .365 OBP before the end of June. There has been good deal of power at the position with seven players hitting double digit home runs.
One player, though, has fascinated me this year as I play solely in on base percentage leagues. Yasmani Grandal now has 10 home runs and a .384 OBP. Vogt (158) is actually the only catcher with a higher wRC+ than Grandal’s 148. What’s more is that Grandal’s line does not look unsustainable either, he looks like he is simply becoming a better hitter as he enters his prime. Remember, though Grandal feels like he has been around forever, he is still just 26-years-old. There is a shot he ends up being one of, if not the, best catcher in the game over the next few years.
So, what has Grandal changed to become such a quality hitter? Mostly by pummeling right-handed pitching. For his career, Grandal has a noted platoon split. As left-handed hitter he has a 134 wRC+ compared to his 96 wRC+ against lefties. This year the contrast is even more stark, with a 164 wRC+ against righties and just a 39 wRC+ against southpaws. And while his 25% home run per fly ball rate righties screams regression, he has a .299 BABIP, a 16.4% walk rate, and a 17.5% strikeout rate. His patience is allowing him to get into deeper counts and absolutely rake. When he is ahead of the count he has absolutely dominated. His lowest wRC+ through any count he is ahead in is 198 through 2-0. He even has a 107 wRC+ through 0-2 counts, so he has been able to work counts and not get flustered despite being behind.
He has cut his strikeouts down by almost eight percent while pushing his walk rate past the 15% mark for the first time in his career. It looks as though he is utilizing his time behind the plate to his advantage while at the plate, in understanding the zone and what pitchers are trying to do to him. Grandal has always had great skills with the bat, but combining those skills with top notch plate discipline has pushed him into the upper echelon of offensive catchers.
In on base leagues, there are not many more catchers worth more than Grandal. In dynasty and keeper leagues, Grandal is absolutely a catcher to target as he is currently in the midst of his peak. Of course fantasy owners would like more run production, but he missed some time on the seven day DL with a concussion, or else his RBI and run totals would be more appealing. He may never be that effective against left-handed pitching, but there are far more righties out there than lefties and if he continues to dominate righties as well as he has he may be Posey-esque for the next few seasons.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.