With no guarantee the free agency moves will remain hot with Thanksgiving approaching, Chicago struck early signing Yasmani Grandal to a four-year contract. This will cause a ripple effect in the fantasy community with Grandal heading to the American League. Only once since 2014 has Grandal not recorded at least a double digit walk percentage in the major leagues. Last season, Grandal finished in the top one percent of the league with a 17.2 walk rate. His on-base percentage soared to 38 percent as a result.
Noting Grandal’s worth as a catcher in fantasy cannot be underscored. He appeared in 153 games with 124 starts at catcher, the most demanding position in baseball. Grandal launched a career high 28 home runs and ranked second in the National League with 109 walks. In games as a catcher, Grandal ranks in the majors as follows:
Walks - 91, first
On-base percentage - .383, first
Extra-base hits - 50, second
Total bases - 215, second
Runs - 68, tied for second
Home runs - 25, third
On-base plus slugging percentage - .864, third
For the year, Grandal scored 79 runs with 28 home runs, 77 RBI, five steals and a .246/.380/.468 slash line. Over the last three years, Grandal’s made 1,391 at-bats with 194 runs, 74 home runs, 203 RBI and a .244 average with an on-base percentage just below 35 percent. Grandal gambled on himself last year in free agency betting on a one-year deal with the Brewers and it paid off handsomely.
Although Miller Park proves to be a hitters haven, Grandal should still thrive on the South side of Chicago. Here’s a spray chart from the last three years of all of his line drives and fly balls with his new home as the backdrop:
According to Statcast, Grandal finished with his highest average exit velocity of 90.3 MPH last season. He recorded 43 barrels of his 379 batted ball events and also finished with a 41.8 hard hit percentage. Of course, the batting environment provided in 2019 will make projections difficult, but Grandal does stand out among his peers, even if he’s not drafted as such.
Fueled by a career best 22.9 line drive percentage, his average could see some regression towards his Steamer projection of .239/.357/.458 in 135 games. In the last three years, Grandal’s averaged a home run every 18.8 at-bats. Ignoring the fact Grandal could hit fourth in an improving lineup will be a mistake. As a group, the White Sox fourth hitters accrued 622 at-bats scoring 84 runs with 26 home runs and 85 RBI with a .232/.299/.413 slash. Less than inspiring. Given Grandal’s ability to draw walks and get on base, he immediately upgrades the spot in the batting order.
With Chicago extending José Abreu and with a talented pipeline ready to add to the overall depth of the team, Grandal’s value could be enhanced. Bake in the fact he can also appear at first base when Abreu needs a day off or appear as the designated hitter letting James McCann bat when there’s a southpaw on the mound gives the lineup a boost. Versus left-handed pitching, McCann hit .295/.372/.492 with a .197 isolated power.
Grandal will also benefit the young pitching staff noting his prowess to frame pitches. This could be a boon to Reynaldo López and Dylan Cease in the year ahead. Paying for Grandal’s baseline value in his projection seems like a safe proposition in fantasy. If he can hit 25 home runs and boost his RBI hitting cleanup in a burgeoning lineup, Grandal’s rock solid in terms of fantasy. How he holds up in terms of games played over the entirety of the contract will determine the final outcome. One thing remains clear, the White Sox see an opportunity to compete in the American League Central this year, perhaps they will be this year’s Minnesota?
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MLB.com - Game Notes