I hate to be somewhat of a “Negative Nancy” right now, especially in the wake of San Diego’s first sweep of an opponent in 2012. Nevertheless, I feel like I must address a topic which needs to at least be discussed at this point in the season. So today I want to share my thoughts on Triple-A Catcher Yasmani Grandal and why the Friars should consider giving him an extended shot at the major league level sooner rather than later.
Why Grandal Right Now?
San Diego’s Catchers Have Not Held Him Off
To be blunt, the Padres’ Catchers as a whole have not produced at a sufficient enough level to keep Grandal in Triple-A for the rest of the season. I hate to harp on the subject, but Nick Hundley has had an awful start to this season at the plate. In 164 At-Bats, Hundley has hit only .171, and is logging a paltry .232 On-Base Percentage and a .274 Slugging Percentage. In addition, his power and run producing numbers are low (3 Home Runs and 19 RBI’s), and his Walk to Strikeout ratio is nothing to smile about either (12 to 39). I should note that Hundley is a solid defensive Catcher, and is definitely a plus to have behind the plate. Yet I do wonder if Hundley’s non-offensive game makes up for his lack of production at the plate. To be fair, Hundley’s backup John Baker has not performed much better at the plate when he has filled in this year.
Entering last night, Baker was hitting only .225 in 71 At-Bats. Like Hundley, his On-Base (.304) and Slugging Percentages (.296) were low. It also did not help that Baker had logged only 7 RBI’s and 0 Home Runs so far either. Like Hundley though, Baker has done enough behind the plate defensively to warrant him staying on the roster, and hopefully the Padres are able to keep him around for a while to work with Grandal in the coming years. Plus, having a veteran Left-Handed bat off the bench never hurt anybody. Still, one has to wonder whether or not more Offensive production is needed from the position as a whole.
Grandal is Producing in Tucson
I have actually been on the “Grandal to the Big Leagues” Bandwagon for the last month, because he has done a fantastic job in Tucson with the bat. How good has Grandal been? Well, for those of you which have not heard or have been caught up to speed on his exploits in Triple-A, here is just a sampling of his 2012 season (43 Games):
150 AB’s, .320 BA, .932 OPS, .419 OBP, .513 SLG, 26 R’s, 48 Hits, 14 2B’s, 5 HR’s, 28 RBI’s, 77 TB’s, 25 to 31 Walk to Strikeout Ratio.
While all of the statistics are nice to look at (especially the Batting Average), what strikes me as most impressive is Grandal’s Walk to Strikeout Ratio, as well as his ability to score and produce Runs on a consistent basis. Consistency is key, and it certainly appears that Grandal knows how to handle the bat at his current level. One recent example of such is when I went to a game last weekend in Tucson and saw him smack an opposite-field Double which should have been a Home Run, and draw two Walks where he illustrated his keen eye for the Strike Zone and help his team by getting on base. While Grandal’s ability to swing the bat has most of the fans excited, even his Defense has improved this far into the season. In the game I saw, Grandal was blocking ball after ball in the dirt and showing some solid fundamentals back behind the plate. Is he a Nick Hundley back there? Not quite, but he is certainly no liability, and should continue to get better over time.
In my personal opinion, Grandal has done more than enough in his Triple-A audition in Tucson to warrant an extended stay in the Major Leagues and a chance to earn a spot with San Diego full time. At almost 20 games under .500 a nearing the All-Star Break, I believe it is safe to say that this season is done with regards to the Padres’ hopes for contending for the postseason. The fact that San Diego is so far out of contention in a way allows them to experiment with those their roster and find out “what works” and “what does not work” as it pertains to their personnel at the major league level and those in the highest stages of the minors. Plus, San Diego could sure use another consistent bat in the lineup, and putting Grandal in the 6th spot might give the Padres a few legitimate run producing threats in the middle of their batting order.
And who knows? Maybe demoting Hundley would send him a wake-up call that in spite of his 2012 Offensive output is simply unacceptable, even for a light-hitting team like the Padres. There is no shame in sending Hundley to Triple-A Tucson. Maybe a month or two there would allow him to get his confidence at the plate back. Regardless, Hundley’s lack of production at the plate on any other team would warrant him being sent down to Triple-A and a talented player like a Grandal being called up to the majors. So why are the Padres not considering said option seriously? Thus, if the Padres wish to play for the future they might be wise in getting some of their future stars like Grandal some experience under their belts before they rely on them in the future.