Fantasy Baseball: Is Yasmani Grandal Worth the Cost?

Grandal posted career-high power numbers in 2016, but is it something that can be sustainable moving forward?

Finding a quality catcher for your fantasy baseball squad this season may be a little difficult if you don't grab one of the top three options.

It seems like Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez and Jonathan Lucroy are as close as one can get to guaranteed offensive production. However, things get interesting after that trio comes off the board -- which has been within the first 60 picks or so, according to average draft position data (ADP) from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC).

If you're not fortunate enough to have one of those backstops land on your team, where else could some value be found?

A case can be made for Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, who is one of the top-10 catchers, according to NFBC's ADP data, but he isn't finding a home until just inside the top 150 despite ranking second in homers, sitting in the top five in RBI and posting an OPS that would've ranked third among qualified catchers in 2016.

With quite a few late-round options to target, if there's a desire to punt the position, is he worth the cost?

Explosion of Power

Since becoming an everyday player with the San Diego Padres in 2014, Grandal has consistently shown us exactly what he’s capable of -- a good amount of power, solid plate discipline and not much in the batting average department.

But his 2016 performance went to the next level. After producing a homer-to-fly-ball ratio (HR/FB) that hovered around 15% from 2014 to 2015, it shot up to a career-high 25.2% last year. He went from a player that needed 869 plate appearances (between 2014 and 2015) to hit 31 homers and post 96 RBI's to needing just 457 plate appearances in 2016 to slug 27 dingers and 72 RBI’s.

The real question is whether this type of performance is sustainable moving forward. Judging from his batted-ball numbers over the past three seasons -- such as BABIP, line-drive rate (LD%), ground-ball rate (FB%), fly-ball rate (FB%) and hard-hit rate (Hard%) -- that seems to be the case.

Year BABIP LD% GB% FB% Hard%
2014 .277 19.4% 42.5% 38.1% 35.8%
2015 .268 17.1% 45.6% 37.3% 30.0%
2016 .250 16.1% 44.7% 39.2% 38.9%

When trying to decide whether he’s worth taking in your fantasy draft, it’s important to also see how he stacks up against similar players who are generating a similar ADP at this point in time.

Value in Context

As mentioned earlier, NFBC's ADP information tabs Grandal as the eighth catcher coming off the board, which is just inside the top 150 overall players. What’s more interesting, though, is that he and the other two backstops who make up the backend of the top 10 are basically the same kind of player with regard to fantasy production.

Those two other catchers are Russell Martin and Brian McCann. Here is how their 2016 production compares to one another.

Player PA R HR RBI SB Avg. OPS
Yasmani Grandal 457 49 27 72 1 .228 .816
Brian McCann 492 56 20 58 1 .242 .748
Russell Martin 535 62 20 74 2 .231 .733

And for good measure, here’s what our projections are expecting, with current NFBC ADP included for reference.

Yasmani Grandal 144.11 471 55 19 66 1 .234 .771
Brian McCann 170.58 477 55 19 60 1 .232 .706
Russell Martin 170.11 522 64 20 68 4 .236 .742

While Grandal is projected to beat his fellow catchers in projected OPS, he's either on the same level or below them in just about every other category while he's expected to get the fewest plate appearances.

There are some obvious reasons to be cautious about him, but there are also reasons to believe he's worth being taken nearly 30 picks before his counterparts.

2017 Outlook

Each of these three catchers are very similar from an offensive standpoint -- right now, at least -- and they’ll each be in the middle of very capable offenses in 2017. So what differentiates Grandal from the rest?

First off, he's at a much different -- and better -- spot in his career.

Grandal is entering his age-28 season, so he’s still very much in his physical prime, while Martin is entering his age-34 season and McCann is about to embark on his age-33 campaign.

More likely than not, we’ve already seen their peak performances, leaving Grandal with the best chance at sustaining last year's production or possibly improving upon it. However, him being a catcher in the National League compared to the two others being in the American League is a disadvantage.

Even if Martin and McCann get a day off behind the plate, they can still get into the lineup as a designated hitter. Grandal doesn’t have that luxury, especially since first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has played at least 156 games each year since 2006. Grandal also received consistent rest throughout last season, and he has yet to appear in more than 128 games in a campaign.

No fantasy owner wants their starting catcher sitting every four or five days, but keeping Grandal fresh also means a greater chance for consistent performance throughout the season, including the fantasy playoffs. The low batting average can scare people off, but it was also the product of a slow start -- from July 1st to the end of the season, he slashed .267/.376/.581 with 20 homers and 43 RBI's in 255 plate appearances.

McCann and Martin appear to be safer because they have more proven track records, but the benefits of taking Grandal at his current ADP outweigh the risks of passing on him for someone in one of the later rounds.