Whenever it comes to Grandal, you have to start with his work behind the plate.
How does Grandal do it? With a disciplined approach that sees him rarely expand the zone to swing at junk. When he does offer and make contact, he tends to make it count. The only catcher with a higher ISO than Grandal since the start of the 2017 season is Gary Sanchez.
In recent years, sabermetricians have figured out how to evaluate framing statistically. While quantifying a catcher’s receiving is still a relatively new concept to many, those who are familiar with the numbers know that Grandal’s ability to steal strikes provides a lot of hidden value.
In other words, Grandal might be the surest bet the White Sox have to be a plus contributor both ways. That, in addition to the other aspects touched on above, ought to make him a worthy investment — in 2020, and heading forward. If there’s another complaint to acknowledge about Grandal’s hitting, it’s that he’s a switch-hitter with a platoon split. Last season was the first time since 2012 he’d hit for an OPS above .800 against lefties. Conversely, he’s topped .800 against righties in three of the last four seasons. Seeing as how most pitchers are right-handed, that’s the ideal split if a split must exist.
Grandal is prone to whiffing and can get under the ball a little too often for comfort, resulting in batting averages low enough to make some fans roll their eyes. That combination could prove to be a problem later in the deal, as his bat speed evaporates. For now, though, he reaches base and makes more than enough hard contact to justify living with his low averages.
Grandal’s pitch presentation was worth more than 19 runs in 2019, which was second to only Austin Hedges of the San Diego Padres, according to Baseball Prospectus. Last season marked the sixth in a row that his framing had contributed at least 15 runs. Chicago’s incumbent catcher James McCann, meanwhile, lost eight runs of value through framing.
Keep in mind that those are relatively minor nitpicks, and that Grandal’s defense should help him remain valuable even if his bat fades as he gets deeper into his 30s. Catcher defense used to be viewed as a combination of a backstop’s ability to block pitches and throw out baserunners. That’s no longer the case. Framing, or the art of coercing generous calls through body and mitt manipulation, is now the king due to amount of opportunities. A catcher sees 100-plus pitches per game; converting a handful of borderline pitches from balls into strikes can make a huge difference, as everyone knows.
Additionally, Grandal’s consistency at the dish should be a welcomed addition for a lineup that has a lot of variability elsewhere. Think about the amount of questions one can pose about the projected White Sox lineup: Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both had breakout 2019s, can they repeat that in 2020? How will Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion look with another year under their belts? Can Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal hit the ground running? Will Eloy Jimenez and Nomar Mazara both live up to their hype? And so on.
For as skilled as Grandal is behind the plate, he’s also an above-average offensive contributor. He’s homered at least 20 times in each of the last four seasons, and has posted an OPS+ of 110 or better in five of his last six tries.
When pitchers and catchers report for the Chicago White Sox in just more than a month’s time, all eyes will be on marquee free-agent addition Yasmani Grandal. The White Sox inked Grandal to a four-year deal worth million over the winter with an eye on him bolstering their lineup and shepherding their young pitching staff toward postseason contention. To help pass the time until Opening Day (and hopefully sate appetites), we intend to spend the rest of the winter profiling the offseason’s biggest additions and figuring out what makes them so effective. That process has seen us already cover the winter’s top three free agents. Today, let’s look at three reasons why Grandal should prove to be a wise investment.
Foremost, Grandal is close to being a workhorse catcher in an era without many. He ranks second in plate appearances by a primary catcher over the past three seasons, trailing J.T. Realmuto, and hasn’t appeared in fewer than 125 games in a campaign since 2015.
The White Sox could see a 20-something-run swing in that regard, or about two wins’ worth — all because Grandal is better than McCann at sticking pitches.