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Positional Preview 2018: Catcher

The Dodgers are preparing to enter the 2018 season with another season of a Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes catching tandem. That’s a good thing because both backstops are young talented catchers. If healthy Grandal should see the lion’s share of the playing time with Barnes serving as the backup again. But with Grandal’s history of injuries Barnes could see extra playing time in 2018.

The switch-hitting Grandal had a bit of a down year offensively but still held his own with the stick. Power is obviously his strength. Yaz blasted 22 home runs and drove in 58 runs in 482 plate appearances last season. His ISO power metric measured at .212 during the 2017 season. Of course those power marks dipped a bit from 2016 when he hit 27 home runs, drove in 72 and posted a .249 ISO mark. We can probably contribute that to injuries. Grandal caught 117 games in 2017 and we can likely expect him to catch about the same amount this year as well.

Grandal also does well at getting on base thanks to his above average plate discipline. However we also saw a decline in that category as well in 2017. Grandal slashed .247/.308/.459 and drew just 40 walks compared to his 64 free passes in 2016. Overall Grandal’s batting and on-base skills were roughly average (100 OPS+) in his 2017 campaign. His BB% dropped from 14.0% in 2016 to just 8.3% in 2017. His wRC+ also fell from 121 in 2016 to 102 in 2017. Grandal was just league average with the bat while displaying above average power.

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Austin Barnes on the other hand had a breakout year in 2017. Barnes soared and the Dodgers rewarded his hard work by using him exclusively throughout their World Series run last October when various injuries namely hand bruise derailed Grandal’s playing time. Barnes played in 102 games, catching 55 of them. He also saw some time at second base as well.

The 28-year old posted a .289/.408/.486 slash line in 262 plate appearances. He hit 8 home runs and drew 39 walks while only striking out 43 times. Barnes posted an .895 OPS and a 137 OPS+ while also posting a 142 wRC+ in 2017. He was very productive and really came into his own last season. Unfortunately Barnes struggled during the postseason, but did go 4 for 8 with a home run in the NLDS against Arizona.

Both men have above average throwing arms. Grandal threw out opposing base runners at a 32% clip while Barnes tossed out would be base-stealers at a 23% mark last year. Grandal recorded three pick-offs as well.

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Where Grandal truly shines is in his pitch framing abilities. As a matter of fact both catchers are two of the best at this in baseball. According to statcorner, a web site that calculates pitch-framing, Grandal was ranked as the second best pitch-framer in MLB. Grandal recorded 10.7% called strike percentage and picked-up an extra 142 calls last season. Hs RAA (Runs above average) rating is 18.9. Barnes ranked seventh with an 8.3 rating and 10.5% (ranked third) strike percentage.

Both catchers do come with some warts. Grandal is unable to stay healthy for an entire season. His batting skills have declined and he has trouble blocking the plate. Grandal led the National league with 16 passed balls. Barnes is inexperienced.

The catching depth behind Grandal and Barnes is not that great to be honest. The Dodgers do have a couple of young catchers that are still developing, like rookie Kyle Farmer. The youngster performed well in a brief September call-up, but might need some extra seasoning in the minors. Keibert Ruiz is highly rated and Will Smith seems to be climbing up the pipeline. After Grandal and Barnes, Farmer is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster.

The duo isn’t perfect, but their strengths far out-weigh their weaknesses. The Dodgers have two of the better catchers in the National League. If the Dodgers manage Grandal’s health closely and get him regular rest then they should get another strong productive year from both catchers behind the dish.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

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Scott Andes
Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

51 thoughts on “Positional Preview 2018: Catcher

  1. Sorry Scott. The blind squirrel does nothing for me. I would much rather see Barnes and his line drive bat behind the dish than the sometimes hot mostly cold Grandal. Pitch framing aside, his defense is horrible. I do not care one bit for his approach at the plate and his all or nothing swing was mainly nothing in 2017. He did not have a major injury in 2017. Unless he was suffering after affects from the year before. He was probably as all catchers are, banged up a little, but he was benched because his bat was colder than a corpse in the morgue. I say trade him while his value is where it is, to Miami in a package for Realmuto and Yelich would suit me just fine. Fix two problems in one fell swoop. The sooner he is an exe Dodger, the happier I will be.

  2. Reading various projections on Grandal are not encouraging. It would appear some believe Grandal and his framing skills/jr high footwork/passed balls are being phased out. We really don’t need him. I wonder if Miami might want him and Joc?

    While on the subject of Yasmani/passed balls/lack of ability to handle pitches in the dirt – why aren’t passed balls considered errors? A catchers ability to – actually catch – should factor into his dWAR calculation. How can it not?

    P.S. I had not read Michael’s post before I posted this. So in response to Michael ……. uh…… yup.

  3. Just checked – Pederson and Grandal project a total 4 WAR next year. Yelich projects 4 WAR. Yelich ain’t happy in Miami, for obvious reasons, so that’s a trade that works for both teams. Yeah, Grandal comes with a price tag, about the same as what Yelich makes, but the Marlins would have no trouble flipping him for multiple prospects. Heck, throw in a 10-15 range prospect to sweeten the deal. Easy peasy the wheels are greasy.

    1. Yelich improves our team (improves a lot of teams) at an affordable cost. The deal is a good one for both teams. But Miami will ask for more. There could be a three or four way where we flip Pederson and Grandal, each for multiple prospects, and send them all, with Thompson and a lower pitcher, say …. Harland Giffcapippy, to Miami. I could do this if given a chance. First I have to make some apple/carrot/ginger juice for my sweetheart. Then I have to trim some junipers and do a load of laundry. But I can get this done by quitting time, which 3 o’clock, also nap time. Ok, maybe by tomorrow.

      1. That is one of those trades that might be best, for all the players involved.

        I do like Toles, but I also like Yelich who is a hometown kid.

        It has to be hard for Grandal, to be replaced as the top catcher, but he is a Miami guy.

        And this would probably give Joc a longer look, especially since Mattingly likes Joc so much.

        I don’t know that much about the money attached, to this deal.

        1. I’m sure Miami might want it to be closer. Joc 2.6, Grandal 7.9, Yelich 7, then 9.75, 12, 14 and 15. That’s why we may need to throw in an arm. But the Marlins get 2 starters, or two players they could move, maybe in deadline deals. If they don’t want Joc and his 2.6, send them Verdugo. We won’t need him if we have Yelich. We could move Joc in another deal, maybe a 3 way that would send prospects to Florida. All of that would also get us a step closer to affording Darvish, who I hear is still on the radar.

          1. Badger,
            Are you looking for work? The Dodgers need to hire you instead of the clowns they currently have. I could go for some of the players you want. Exciting and available. I just love how get rid of those we sure do not need while getting top tier talent.

          2. I’m retired pack. But, for the right deal I can be had.

            I just had the word retired autocorrected to retarded. My autocorrect is not p.c., but is it trying to tell me something?

            The one unknown of course is what other teams are offering. We already had one Southern Cal player ask to come here and that didn’t work. I wonder what Yelich wants? Not that Miami gives a rat’s ass what he wants, but if he wants to play here the man could create a ripple. They’ll ask for Seager and Urias, everyone knows that, right? Joc and Grandal already have All Star on their resume so they are considerably less risky than ANY prospects. I wonder what FAZ is working on. Is Yelich at the top of their big board? It’s hard for me to imagine he isn’t.

    1. Chili
      I like Arrieta too but I will defer to my GM {The Badge}. I will go with either but got to go with my man. Good thought Chile.

      1. Package

        I think Darvish is the type of player, that would give up money, to be happy on a team.

        How about a good redemption season, where Kershaw and Darvish, take us all the way.

        They have both been throwing with each other, everyday in the off season.

        1. MJ
          Sounds like a good plan to me. I think Darvish pitched good last regular season. He is a flame thrower for sure. I have already counted the Dodgers out but I will just love to be wrong on it.

          1. I read today that Darvish is on the radar. I haven’t heard anything on Arrieta. If we knew he was the Arrieta from ‘15, I like him too. His FIP and away splits last year were strange. He also had an uncharacteristic high number of WP. He’s led the league the last two years. If you look at his career stats you see what looks like the proverbial age arc. He peaked in ‘15. Something may not be right with him. Darvish projects better for ‘18.

          2. When looking at Darvish numbers it looks like he peaked in 2013. And his ML stats do not include the 1,000 innings pitched in Japan. Giving either of them a 4 year or longer deal is very risky. The knock against Arrieta is that he will cost the team that signs him a draft pick and Darvish does not.

        2. No thanks. I wouldn’t want Darvish. And no way the FBZ springs that kind of money. They are waiting to get their arm in a trade, probably someone from systems they are familiar with (Archer).

          Me, I’d trade for Cole Hamels.

          1. I’d rather have Cole or Archer, or a RH pitcher like them, under the age of 28, but there are x number of solid starters available now and word on the couch is Darvish is being discussed. Hamels was my choice in ‘15, is 34 now and is still left handed. I want a big strapping right hander that throws 97 mph for 179 innings (Darvish projections). That said, honestly I don’t expect FAZ to spring for him either. It feels more likely they will remain in this holding pattern, see where we are in July, and decide what to do then. The goal was apparently to reset the cap (which I think makes them vulnerable in ‘18) and go “all in” with the FA bonanza in ‘19. I know some of you must agree with that because I’ve seen some low win predictions here.

          2. Gerrit Cole would have been real nice and even the nerds at Fangraphs thinks the Pirates got robbed by the Astros. The Pirates fans are beside themselves on how little they for Cole.

            You guys should trust me on Cole Hamels. I am pretty good at scouting old warhorses.

          3. You may be right YF. He does project well as far as IP. 2.3 WAR and 200 IP would be helpful to this staff, but at $22.5mm with a $6mm buyout? Not sure that’s FAZonian.

            And it’s my opinion that, just like Hamels at the ‘15 deadline, not getting Cole at a clearly reduced price is yet another hairball coughed up by Friedman.

  4. Move GrandMal Seizure while you can, he is an ill that we don’t need. The Seizure is a liability both at the plate and behind the plate. Those that put a premium on being a “framer” are retarded, I mean retired. Okay framing a pitch has a limited value but not nearly as much value as simply blocking pitches and not allowing passed balls. As some have suggested, it will take others to be packaged with The Seizure in order to actually move him, he really has VERY limited appeal or value to the other GMs in the MLB.

    Any word on Kemp’s tryout on the Dodger Dog Grill Squad?

    1. YF

      Sometimes in these trades it comes down to what the other teams need, and not necessarily the best over all picks.

      I guess the Pirates need a young third baseman, because they signed that Korean that can’t come back to the US, because he has to many DUIs, and has assault charges against him, in the US.

      And the Astros have a young third baseman that is blocked, by the young guy they already have in the line up, so they traded their other good third base prospect, to the Pirates for Cole, for two years.

      I only mention Darvish because the Dodgers were suppose to be talking to him, and I think he would be a guy that might not care as much about some extra money, then some players.

      Because I think we need another top starting pitcher more then anything.

      And there will not be many top starting pitchers on the market, in the next three years, as you know.

      My preference would be Archer, because he has been much healthier then Cole.

      And Archer has been pitching in a tougher division then Cole has, in the last couple years.

      The National League Central, was not as good as the National League West last year, and Cole’s era was over 4.

      And Cole is going to be pitching in a band box in Houston, now.

      1. MJ, the Pirates are rebuilding. The don’t need to fill specific positions, getting prospects is the need. Just go check out the Pirates blogs. The fans are very down on both trades.

        I read on one of them that the Pirates had asked the Yankees for Torres in exchange for Cole, and the Yankees said no. Going from that to what they eventually got is like asking for Seager and ending up settling for De Leon

        1. That’s not right. The Astros didn’t give up any of their top 5 prospects and De Leon was our number 2 ranked prospect at one time. So it’s more like asking for Burhler and ending up settling for Will Smith or Heredia. Big drop off.

        2. YF

          Thanks I just read this from a person that seems to know a lot, about these prospects.

          I don’t personally know much, about the trade.

  5. I wrote this for Dylan;

    Ok, ego aside, this sums up what some of us, including me, have been saying but obviously does so with a more articulate presentation. (Note the point about this year’s team being a notch below last year’s team). We could do Darvish by dumping Joc and Grandal, or skillfully design the contract backloading this year’s 20+ million (and risking another Crawford/AGon situation).

    What’s the answer?

  6. Daydreaming trades that make sense to all of us who know nothing is definitely fun, but it’s also kinda pointless.

    How long until Spring Training?

    1. So you’re saying participation in baseball blogs is pointless?

      Damn. Why do we waste our time?

      Spring Training is too far out. Until it’s here, it’s too far out

      And I’m in moderation again, from a post at 8:39 this morning. You may be right Bluto.

        1. 100% daydreaming.

          Well, I’m not sure I follow that. And I sure as heck am not going to allow anyone else to define my dreaming. You may call daydreaming what others would call thought provoking conceptions. I encourage everyone here you to bring us your ideas. I say don’t worry about criticism. There’s always someone who will criticize, but often they are not worth bothering with. This is a chat room. I think discussion is what it is for.

          And I’d like to add it would be helpful to discussion if the site owner was actively involved here. There is still a post in moderation from 8:39 this morning. This should not happen here but consistently does. Get it together Scott.

          1. 8:39 yesterday morning. It’s there now. Said all day it was in moderation. Now it doesn’t.


            Bluto is right.

  7. I have not in a long time wanted someone out of a Dodger uni as much as I do Grandal. That being said, I think a trade to a team like the Marlins makes a lot of sense. There has to be someone in our system that the Marlins covet who along with Grandal would make sense to both teams. I read where they were talking with the Braves about Yelich, but the Marlins will not trade him unless the Braves included their top prospect. So at this point I am not sure what it would take to get Yelich in a Dodger uni, but I do know that this FO should be exploring that avenue. It automatically makes them better. In reality, Darvish makes them better too because I think Honeycutt spotted something in his mechanics that with a little more time, he can correct and make Darvish Ace material again, which would soften the blow if Kershaw opts out.

  8. The Darvish signing can only happen if money is moved. I’m not sure Miami wants to take on any additional salaries, only prospects.

      1. He is MJ. And it was already discussed. A suggestion was made to involve a three way, or that Miami could trade and flip without any difficulty.

        Sometimes I feel like I’m in a room full of people talking to myself. A post in moderation for 12 hours contributes to that feeling.

    1. Well believe it or not, they are having discussions and they are also talking about maybe bringing Chase Utley back also…….weird things goin on and they still keep signing guys I have never heard of….Non roster guys are going to be a bunch of no names… is also funny that in all our conversations on here, Tom Koehler’s name rarely comes up and I read a report that the Dodgers consider him a very important piece of the BP puzzle….

  9. Dodgers still signing fringe players……same old crap…..what I would give for a real difference maker.

  10. About day dreaming….considering the lack of major movement by the front office and the fact that for the most part they have been scrounging other teams castoffs, they did it again today buying some former Cub prospect for their AA team most likely, it is about all we have to talk about. We all know FAZ’s lack of fortitude where it pertains to going after major talent and giving up his own. Salary dump and rental players are more in his wheel house. Low risk, high reward is their middle name. It would make total sense for them to pursue a trade for Yelich, but since when has FAZ made a trade that made sense?

  11. Going out to breakfast this morning for some biscuits and gravy and a little Dodger talk. Have a great day gang

  12. Howie Kendrick back with DC for two more years. D-Backs Tomas arrested for excessive speeding. Guy was doing 105 on the loop in Phoenix. What a moron. He has been a real bust in AZ. JD Martinez has a 100 million 5 year offer on the table from the Bosox.

  13. I know you guys want more posts for Dodger conversations but let’s not be too hard on Scott. He has written the last 15 posts since December 15. He probably has other things to do as all of us do. I personally like his posts and hope he continues to post here on ladodgerreport. Thanks Scott for all the information you have put out there so far. It is a long off season so it should not be long before there is plenty to write about.

    1. Can’t be on the internet 24/7. So I think he does a decent job and I usually like his topics. Between now and spring training there will obviously be some movement of free agents and other players.. Maybe even a trade or two. I read a report today that says the Cubs may be gearing up to make a serious run at Bryce Harper next year since his closest buddy, Rizzo, plays for the Cubbies.

        1. You honestly believe FAZ is going to pop for a 400 million dollar contract???? Cause that’s what it is going to take…..Grichuk to Jays for 2 RH pitchers…

  14. Another great podcast I heartily endorse, Effectively Wild with special guest Jeff Passan (Yahoo, wrote “The Arm”)

    They talk about how the Dodgers getting under the luxury tax threshold and the Pirates fire-sale isn’t strategic or “good business” but just greed and about making more money.

    Also talk about competitive incentives and more.

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