Happy Birthday Yasmani Grandal

Happy birthday, Yasmani Grandal. Now go sit down for the first two months of what was supposed to be your first full year in the majors.

Admittedly, the first major drug suspension of the offseason did not match the headlines of last year when Ryan Braun was suspended coming off his MVP season. Yet the news that Grandal will miss 50 games for testing positive for testosterone will have a bigger impact on fantasy baseball because he will actually serve the suspension.

Grandal, San Diego’s starting catcher who today turned 24, had moved into the upper half of fantasy baseball catchers, particularly in the National League, after hitting .297 with eight homers and 36 RBI in just 60 games after being called up from the minors last summer. Project that over a full season and you are looking at nearly 20 homers and 85 RBIs to go with a .394 on-base percentage and .863 OPS.

Those numbers are not a fluke and would make him nearly a top-five catcher.

Grandal was a first-round pick by the Reds in 2010 and needed just over two years to reach the majors, which is rare for a catcher. Even if the bat is ready, teams often want their young catchers to get more work behind the plate before calling a game in the bigs. While making stops at every level of the minors, Grandal hit .310 with 20 homers and 104 RBI in just 171 minor-league games. He hit at every stop in the minors and did the same when he got to San Diego.

He was dealt to the Padres in the Mat Latos deal last offseason because Cincinnati had depth at catcher, but the Reds must wish they instead dealt disappointing Devin Mesoraco, another former first-rounder who hit just .212 in 54 games last year.

WHAT NOW

The news that Grandal will be out 50 games means that he will be back in early May and probably play just about 100 games this year. He will post solid numbers, but his fantasy value obviously takes a big drop missing nearly two months of the year.

If he played a full season, I would have put him behind Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer, Carlos Ruiz, Wilin Rosario, Carlos Santana, and A.J. Pierzynski in fantasy drafts, but that is about it. Now I’d move Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Wieters, Miguel Montero, Jesus Montero, and Brian McCann ahead of him too. So he goes from top 10 to top 15, but don’t let him fall too far in your draft or auction. Grandal is particularly valuable in keeper leagues as the Padres catcher for years to come, so if he slips in that format, get him earlier than you would in standard leagues.

You can live with two months of replacement level at catcher, which is often not a spot with much fantasy production anyway, if you get the boost you expect from Grandal. Another positive for Grandal is that the Padres are bringing the fences in so he will get a boost in power. We will see what the impacts of the new home-run distance is at Petco Park, but Grandal has the potential to rank among the top two or three catchers in home runs.

The other question that always comes up now is whether or not Grandal will be the same player now that he is not taking PEDs. I think it is safe to say his talent will survive without the testosterone so just ignore those worries.

Projections H AB R HR RBI SB AVG
Best Case Scenario 110 350 63 19 73 4 0.314
Reasonable Projections 100 350 52 15 60 1 0.286
Worst Case Projections 79 320 38 10 41 0 0.247
THE REPLACEMENTS

So with Grandal out for the first two months, what about the guys who take his place?

Barring a trade, it looks like Nick Hundley and John Baker could platoon at the position and you don’t want any part of that. Even if you get Grandal and are tempted to take a Padres catcher to fill in while Grandal is out, look elsewhere.

It’s sad to have to say that about Hundley, who was the Padres catcher of the future before Grandal, but the former top prospect has not lived up to expectations and I think you can give up on him having any fantasy value now at age 29. He was a trendy sleeper last year after he hit .288 with nine homers in just 82 games in 2011, but he was brutal from the start of 2012. A guy with a history of slow starts is not who you want to fill in for you at catcher during April and May. Hundley hit .217 last April and that was his best month of the year. He batted .123 in May and .157 in June and hit just three homers in more than 200 at-bats for the season. He has played at least 50 games in each of the last five seasons and hit over .250 just once.

The left-handed part of the platoon is Baker, who looked like a batting champion compared to Hundley with his .238 average, but had no home runs in 193 at-bats. Not even bringing in the fences at Petco can make him fantasy relevant.

Tags: Catcher Padres Yasmani Grandal

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