After 2007 first-round draft pick Devin Mesoraco launched 25 home runs to pace the catcher position in 2014, many will be on the lookout for that next catcher to break out. Yasmani Grandal, a 2010 first rounder, will be high on many lists.
We ranked the San Diego Padre turned Los Angeles Dodger as the No. 11 catcher in the Fake Teams Consensus Rankings released this morning, sandwiched between another former pair of first-round picks, Matt Wieters and Travis d'Arnaud. Grandal will be entering his age-26 season on a new team after the Padres and Dodgers completed an intra-division swap, sending Matt Kemp to a star-studded outfield that now includes Justin Upton and Wil Myers. I ranked Grandal as my No. 14 catcher, while six other writers had him inside the top 10.
In his final season in San Diego, Grandal slashed .225/.327/.401 with 15 home runs, 47 runs, 49 RBI and three steals in 443 plate appearances. All 15 of the switch-hitters home runs in 2014 came against right-handed pitchers, in which Grandal had a slash line of .241/.329/.452 and a 124 wRC+ (compared to .162/.323/.189 and a 62 wRC+ against LHP). Grandal did show some marked improvement in the second half, hitting .242 with a .365 OBP (up from a .210 BA and .299 OBP in the first half). Grandal underwent knee surgery last offseason, so it's possible that his first half was affected. An increase in his fly-ball rate from 28.2 percent to 38.1 percent last season is also good for future power projections. His previous high was 14 home runs in 105 games back in 2011 (in the minors).
More than a year removed from knee surgery, Grandal could slide inside the top 5 catching options. He demonstrated more power in the second half, slugging .440 with eight home runs, including four long balls in the month of September. An accomplished hitter in the minor leagues, he hit .291 over the final month of the season. Grandal had a 26 percent strikeout rate in 2014 (up from 16.7 percent), but still demonstrated good plate discipline with a 13.1 percent walk rate.
As Ray pointed out in the consensus ranks, which was the 13th highest walk rate among players with 400 or more plate appearances. I'd like to see the strikeout rate come down some, but his track record in the minor leagues as an accomplished hitter and a .310 hitter.
Steamer more or less projects Grandal to replicate his 2014 season with a slash of .241/.336/.401 with 13 home runs and 48 runs and 50 RBI in 446 plate appearances. I believe Grandal will top those numbers, with a slightly more favorable ballpark and a better lineup in Los Angeles from top to bottom. Steamer's numbers for Grandal are across 106 games, but we could see him approach 130. If everything falls right for Grandal, the switch-hitter has the ability to hit 20 home runs with more than 70 RBI. He's also someone to bump up in your personal ranks if playing in OBP leagues.