Yasmani Grandal has been a tough out recently. The Dodgers’ catcher continued his July slug fest on Thursday in Atlanta, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI.
On Tuesday, in Philadelphia, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the 16-inning marathon at Citizens Bank. It was the third time Grandal hit home runs as a left-handed batter and a right-handed batter in the same game for the Dodgers (fourth time of his career), setting a new franchise record. Eddie Murray and Milton Bradley both did it twice. It was also his second multi-home run game this season and 10th of his career.
Grandal also caught the entirety of the game, all 16 frames.
The backstop, who turns 30-years old this November, has been a notoriously streaky hitter over his career. He started off the season hitting .315 and OPSing .953 in the first month but cooled off in May and June, batting under .200 in both months.
Grandal has been on a torrid run this July. He’s 22-for-54 (.407) with a .529 on-base percentage, .796 slugging percentage and 1.326 on-base plus slugging in July. He has four doubles, a triple, five home runs, 14 walks and 14 strikeouts in 68 plate appearances this month. He leads all of baseball in on-base percentage for the month, and he’s even ahead of some guy named Mike Trout.
Considering that Grandal plays the most demanding position on the field, it’s impressive that he can still produce at the level he has after suffering multiple concussions and taking a beating over the course of each season. In fact, he’s used his experience behind the plate to help develop and improve catcher’s helmets and gear as part-owner of Force3 Pro Gear.
Last season with Austin Barnes’ emergence, Grandal took a step back as the primary catcher. He only played in four postseason games and went 0-for-8 with three walks and three strikeouts in eight at-bats in the three postseason series. Little did we know, he was dealing with a lot last season and was flying back to be with his wife during her high-risk pregnancy multiple times a week.
Grandal explained to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register how delicate the situation really was.
“There’s a lot of things that happened last year, the whole year,” he said. “My wife was pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy. We didn’t know if it was going to happen or not.
“So there was a lot of things going on on the outside that when I look back at last year I think I did a pretty good job just handling what was going on all around me, plus coming in every day and pretty much giving 100 percent. Like I said, there wasn’t much I could think about. I took it one day at a time and the No. 1 goal was to keep the baby alive for a day.”
Things are going well for the Grandals now. Grandal’s wife Heather and Yasmani Jr. are happy and healthy, and Grandal has reclaimed his starting catching job as well. While his impending free agency may be a motivator, there’s no doubt that Grandal is also motivated to help get his team back to the World Series.
Grandal is making $7.9 million this year. While most of the focus for the Dodgers has been on potential free agent targets like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper next offseason, Grandal should be a priority as well.
The Dodgers do have strong catching depth in their system thanks to a renewed focus on the position within the organization by management since they took over. They have several standout catching prospects in the system including Keibert Ruiz, Will Smith, Connor Wong and their new international acquisition Diego Cartaya.
The Dodgers may just make Grandal a qualifying offer this offseason and hope he accepts if they choose not to sign him to a multi-year deal. The Dodgers want to sign a big talent like Machado or Harper plus potentially shelling out more money to Clayton Kershaw should he opt-out. While Machado and Harper are certainly impact bats, there’s something to be valued in a frontline catcher like Grandal. Right now a Barnes/Kyle Farmer duo doesn’t look too appealing. Barnes has struggled at the plate this year, and his .585 OPS in 149 at-bats is less than ideal.
Grandal not only is one of the best hitters on the team right now, but his framing skills are some of the best in baseball which equals more strikes for the pitching staff. It’s no coincidence that the Dodgers also have the best ERA in the NL (3.51).
If you’re looking for a weakness, he did lead the league in passed balls last season with 16. This season he has 5 passed balls in 81 games behind the plate.
A three-year deal, possibly with a player opt-out option in the final year, could be a way to bridge the catching situation until Smith is ready. After all, Grandal has been one of the best offensive catchers in the majors, and his 81 home runs with the Dodgers the last four seasons is not something to scoff at. In fact, he’s already catching up to some all-time greats in Dodgers history.
Grandal’s 81 home runs in four seasons with the Dodgers is fifth on the all-time list for LA Dodger catchers.
1. Mike Piazza 177
2. Steve Yeager 100
3. Joe Ferguson 91
4. Johnny Roseboro 90
5. Yasmani Grandal 81
6. Mike Scioscia 68
7. Paul Lo Duca 57
8. Russell Martin 54
9. Todd Hundley 50
10. A.J. Ellis 36
Grandal is leading all catchers this season (tied with Salvador Perez) with 16 home runs on the year.
July has historically been a good month for Grandal whose career .980 OPS is the best month by far. He’s usually tailed off in the final two months of the season as evident from his career .720 and .747 OPS in August and September/October.
Right now the Dodgers are definitely benefiting from Grandal’s hot hitting this month, but the real test is if he can sustain his offensive onslaught consistently down the stretch and into the postseason when they really will need him.
A strong finish to the season means more money to be had for him next season should he stay with the Dodgers or not. A catcher who can hit is hard to come by, and the Dodgers currently have one of the best in the game.