On January 14th, 2019, the Milwaukee Brewers officially announced that they had signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a very reasonable one year deal worth $16 million (plus a $16 million mutual option for 2020). Grandal, still only 30 years old, had been hoping to cash in on a big deal in the offseason but seemingly never got the offer he was looking for. Multiple sources (Jon Heyman, Bob Nightengale, and Ken Rosenthal) all reported that the Mets had offered him a four year deal in the $50-60 million range. Here’s what Grandal had to say in regards to why he ultimately decided to turn down the Mets offer:
“A lot of teams made good deals and I am grateful for that, but I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys who went through the process before I did — Brian McCann, Russell Martin and Yadier Molina,” Grandal told the MLB Network. “Those guys who established pay levels and markets for upper tier catchers like me. So, I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of these deals being thrown around.
Grandal batted .241 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018. He made $7.9 million in the final year of his contract before becoming a free agent.WFAN.com
In hindsight, Grandal’s decision to sign with the Brewers on a short-term deal was the right choice. Grandal has arguably been the best catcher in all of baseball, having amassed 2.8 wins above replacement (per FanGraphs), which ranks first among major league catchers, and he has slugged 15 dingers in 61 games. Defensively, Grandal has struggled quite a bit (-5 DRS), but he helps mitigate for this fact with his strong framing production (4.8 FRM this year — 6th highest among all MLB catchers per FanGraphs). Grandal’s offensive game has improved dramatically in 2019, as conveyed below…
- AVG: .241
- OBP: .349
- SLG: .466
- PA/HR: 21.6
- ISO (isolated power): .225
- AVG: .283
- OBP: .380
- SLG: .557
- PA/HR: 16.7
- ISO: .274
Grandal is hitting more line drives this season (his LD rate is up 4.1% from last season [17.2 –> 21.3]), which can partially explain his much improved batting line. Some may very well argue that regression is due to hit Grandal at some point, as he’s running a BABIP above .300 (.306) for the first time since 2012 (.333). But for me, the uptick in line drives substantiates this increase in BABIP…
He’s also been employing a more aggressive approach at the plate in 2019. His Z-Swing% (percent of time a batter swings at pitches inside the strike zone) is up 6.5% from last year, and it’s the second highest it has ever been in his career. The last time Grandal had a Z-Swing% above 65 was in 2013, when he was a member of the San Diego Padres. Grandal is hitting the ball harder as well (his average exit velocity is up 2.5 mph from last season [88.9 –> 91.4 according to Baseball Savant]).
In order to determine what exactly Grandal is doing differently this season, let’s take a look at a handful of side-by-side comparisons (all photos courtesy of Baseball Savant) of his 2018/2019 swing and approach from both sides of the plate…
- Grandal is positioning his bat in a much higher position, and it is more angled.
- He has lowered his hands.
- He looks a lot looser at the plate.
- Continues to keep hands in a lower position and further away from his body.
- Seems to now have better control of his bat.
- His hands remain lower than they were in the past.
- Bat arched further back (which could be allowing Grandal to generate more power/higher exit velocity).
In 2018, Grandal had a much harder time batting from the right side; this year, however, that has not been the case at all…
- PA: 333
- AVG: .252
- HR: 20
- PA: 150
- AVG: .273
- HR: 10
- PA: 107
- AVG: .206
- HR: 4
- PA: 74
- AVG: .306
- HR: 5
His new stance from the right-side appears to be working to perfection…
In this case, his hands are positioned much higher in 2019, and his bat is almost at a 180-degree angle (virtually a straight horizontal line). His knees are more bent as well (more on his toes).
The leg-kick looks pretty similar other than the fact that Grandal is lifting his knee a tad bit higher this season. Grandal’s bat is much further back and it’s angled more (enabling him to have a better chance of putting a good swing on the baseball).
- Much more open to the baseball
- Bat arched further back once again
Grandal has been hands-down awesome this season, and I don’t see any reason as to why he can’t maintain this high level of performance moving forward and put himself in the best possible position to receive a rewarding long-term contract in the winter.