2018 Dodgers Player Reviews: Yasmani Grandal
2018 was Yasmani Grandal’s fourth year as the Dodgers’ primary catcher. He arrived in December 2014 in the famous Matt Kemp trade (which, of course, has now come full circle).
Regular Season Recap
2018 was a typical Grandal season, with excellent (if overlooked) offense and stellar pitch framing. In the former capacity, he hit .241 with 24 homers and 68 RBI, his third straight season with more than 20 home runs. The best was easily his walk-off shot in the bottom of the 10th against Milwaukee on August 1. In the latter, Grandal ranked second in all of baseball only to Arizona’s Jeff Mathis.
How’d He Do in October?
Oh boy, how do we put this nicely? It was…suboptimal. Things got off to a nice start in the NLDS, slugging a key home run to help win game two. After a minimal postseason in 2017 (during which he was certainly focused more on the birth of his son), he looked like a given to man the plate for the corpulent bulk of October 2018.
And then…the NLCS. Grandal’s game one performance was a historic disaster that will forever be engrafted in Dodger fans’ collective conscious…even though they still won the series. First up was a passed ball in the first that allowed Lorenzo Cain to advance to second, although it didn’t lead to any runs.
Then came another in the third inning that allowed Cain to go to third and Christian Yelich to second. Jesus Aguilar then hit a line drive that David Freese seemed to catch for the second out. Except, well, Grandal stuck his mitt out far enough to be hit by Aguilar’s bat. Catcher’s interference was called, erasing the out and loading the bases.
Hernan Perez hit a sacrifice fly to Cody Bellinger that scored Cain. But Grandal was unable to secure Bellinger’s throw, allowing Yelich and Aguilar to advance. As a result, he earned the ignominious distinction of being the first catcher in postseason history with two passed balls and two errors in the same game.
Perhaps the greatest measure of his game one ineptitude was the fact that it led to Austin Barnes being the primary catcher for the rest of the playoffs. It was surreal to see so much of Dodgers Twitter show gratitude for a listless strikeout by Barnes, so as long as it meant Grandal rode the bench.
What Lies Ahead
Grandal is currently a free agent after rejecting the team’s qualifying offer, and is clearly the best option in a mostly weak catcher’s market this winter. Thus, he’ll likely fetch a lot of money from whoever signs him.
Many fans are eager to see him leave after his dismal NLCS showing, which, if we’re being honest, is unfair. He filled a position the team was desperately thin at for years, and provided excellent hitting and sturdy framing as he was expected to.
Having said that, it’s likely in the best interest of both parties that Grandal departs. He can enjoy a fresh start and more money with a new club, and the Dodgers can acquire a serviceable catcher to build a bridge to their catching prospects in 2020.
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Personally I’m glad we won’t have another year of Grandal. Although when he’s hot, he’s hot, when he’s cold, he’s freezing. His defense is frequently sub-par and the amount of double plays or groundouts with men on base he hit into seemed an epidemic. I would rather see a better defensive catcher who is a more consistent hitter than have to suffer through another one of Grandal’s cold spells. One of many Dodgers who in 2018 seemed to lose sight of the strike zone while at bat and always swing for the fences.
He wasn’t just bad he was horrible in the playoffs. Grandal’s stats don’t cover things like mental savvy for the game. In one instance there were runners at 1st and 2nd. There was a bunt to Maeda who by a wide margin could have had an out at 3rd. Grandal called out first. Stats don’t account enough for games lost like that because he could not field good throws from the outfield as well. You can have his streaky 20 home runs per season, I would take Barnes and any minor league backup they see fit any day. He’s a 7 mil max talent who will probably get double that because of the mirage of a stat called framing. Good luck mets or whoever, you will need it.