Once again, as January ensues, the Brewers start to target players still caught in free agency limbo. Yasmani Grandal agreed to a one-year deal for just under 19 million dollars to be the bridge to Jacob Nottingham ’s arrival in Milwaukee. Knowing Miller Park profiles well for left-handed hitters, reference Christian Yelich last season if unsure, along with the lack of upside at catcher, and suddenly Grandal’s stock just rose.

After being written off last year in fantasy beneath the Austin Barnes hype train, Grandal appeared in 140 games with 65 runs, 24 home runs, 68 RBI, two stolen bases and a .241/.349/.466 slash line in 440 at-bats. For the third straight season his fly ball percentage rose reaching a career high 41.7 percent last season. Grandal also recorded career bests in hard hit rate (40.8 percent), pull percentage (48.3 percent) and O-Swing (chase percentage) reducing it by nine percent. As a segue to his three year averages, here’s Grandal’s progression in a rolling chart:

Last season’s improved plate discipline along with more pull side lean and fly balls could lead to a return to his 27 home runs from 2016 in the year ahead. Over the last three years, among catchers with at least 1,000 plate appearances, he ranks second in home runs (73), third in RBI (198), third in isolated power (.227) and sixth in runs (164). In 397 games, Grandal’s slashed .238/.332/.465 with a 12.1 walk percentage and 25.4 strikeout rate. This provides a solid baseline when trying to project him, but could there be room for growth?

According to Statcast, Grandal finished with 319 batted ball events of which 40.1 percent resulted in an exit velocity of 95 MPH or better. His launch angle increased to 14 percent in 2018 and Grandal’s 38 barrels ranked 45th overall. Key on the 94.5 average fly ball and line drive exit velocity in the chart below illustrating them over the course of the last three years with Miller Park as the backdrop:

Steamer projected Grandal for 113 games, 389 at-bats, 56 runs, 21 home runs, 61 RBI, two stolen bases and a .237/.344/.453 slash line prior to his deal with Milwaukee. Using xSTATS (expected statistics) as a reference, Grandal’s .250 expected average the last three years could mean positive migration to the mean. His 64.4 expected home runs should be buoyed by the chart above along with the gains in launch angle and hard hit rates.

Yasmani Grandal will again be playing for a contract in a positive hitting environment on the heels of career bests in hard hit percentage, pull percent and fly ball rate. Early lineup projections suggest Grandal could hit sixth for the Brewers. Last year’s cumulative data for sixth batters on the team produced 70 runs and 69 RBI despite a paltry .216 average with a .672 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Even if Grandal only reached his Steamer slash line, this represents an improvement for the team. Plus, his defense and framing should benefit a young pitching staff:

If Grandal can reach 450 at-bats, he could come close to repeating at least 60 runs with a possible return to last year’s 68 RBI due to his new home. Taking the over on 21 home runs, seeing the potential of 24-to-27 and if he hits .240 or better, it’s gravy. Grandal’s price will rise as a result of his new landing spot, but it will be worth paying. Especially at a position barren of strong fantasy options.


Statistical Credits:

Fangraphs.com, BaseballSavant.com, SteamerProjections.com, xSTATS.org