Two-time trade centerpiece and current Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal always had a lot of promise. A former top prospect with both the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres, Grandal is enjoying both an offensive and defensive breakout in 2015 and was awarded with his first All-Star appearance.
After a nasty collision in 2013 quickly ended his rookie season, a healthy Grandal was a relative disappointment last year. Performing in Petco Park ensured that his stat line maintained some offensive value, but a lot of his problems stemmed from a 26 percent strikeout rate and the second worst defensive rating among all catchers that season. He struggled to throw out base runners, and his defensive future was questionable.
In 2015, his outlook has completely flipped after a move to Los Angeles (data from FanGraphs).
After leaving Petco, Grandal's power has predictably increased, leading to a career-high ISO and having already matched last season's home run total. However, context-neutral stats indicate that his offensive development is beyond a ballpark adjustment - his wRC+ is over forty percentage points higher than in 2014. No small part of that appears to be improved patience at the plate and a higher contact rate (data from FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball).
|Season||O-Swing%||Z-Swing%||O-Contact%||Z-Contact%||SwStr%||Hard Sw%||Breaking Sw%||Offspeed Sw%|
Year-over-year, Grandal has swung at fewer balls and made more contact with pitches both in and out of the zone. As a result, his strikeout rate has dropped significantly despite demonstrating more power, while his walk rate has even edged up. In particular, his eye has improved, and he is swinging at more hard pitches (fastballs and cutters), while dramatically dropping the rate at which he swings at secondary offerings.
His results against hard pitches are reflecting Grandal's improved eye as well, and this dramatic improvement has fueled both his power surge and higher average (data from Brooks Baseball).
|Pitch Type||BAA||SLG||ISO||BABIP||Pitch Type||BAA||SLG||ISO||BABIP|
In total, Grandal has the second-highest total offensive contribution among catchers with at least 150 plate appearances and is almost tied with Buster Posey for first overall.
Offense is just one part of his game. While Grandal's baserunning defense will never be a positive contributor, he has improved his defensive rating significantly. FanGraphs rates his total defensive contribution to be almost 8 runs better than in 2014. His caught stealing rate has improved from 13 percent to 27 percent this season, roughly in line with league average.
However, one of the most predictably valuable skillsets Grandal possesses is that of a master pitch framer. While he has always been good at this part of catching, he is currently rated by Baseball Prospectus as the best framer in the game by a 3.8 run margin. That is potentially over 16 runs above average added to his value outside what FanGraphs uses to measure catcher defense.
Before factoring in framing contributions, FanGraphs rates Yasmani Grandal as the second-most valuable catcher in baseball (3.0 fWAR) in 2015 due to a massive jump in offensive value and solid defensive progression. Add in the value from framing, and that he is making around league minimum at age 26 with three seasons of team control remaining, and the Dodgers have one of the most valuable young players in baseball.
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Spencer Bingol is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpencerBingol.