Yasmani Grandal came into the 2021 season with something to prove after his so-so 2020 debut in his first season with the White Sox after signing a 4-year, $73 million deal in November 2019. In 2020, Grandal slashed .230/.351/.422 with a 112 OPS+, 8 HRs, 27 RBIs, and 30 BBs. Out of the gate in 2020, Yas started out slow, batting .118/.238/.118 with only 2 hits and 2 RBIs in the end of the July portion of the truncated 2020 MLB season. The Cuban started to turn it around more towards his career numbers for the August and September months with a slash line of .243/.364/.459 along with 8 HRs, 25 RBIs, and 17 BBs. Building off that better 2-month stretch to end the season, Grandal looked to build upon it in the coming 2021 season.
Entering Grandal’s first full season with the pale hose in 2021, he hoped this year would start out better, but so far it hasn’t. Yasmani came into 2021 spring training with a nagging knee injury that only allowed him to play in 10 Cactus League games, which allowed fellow catchers Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes to get extended reps. On top of the lack of spring training play, newly hired catching instructor, Jerry Narron has him catching on one knee to preserve the stress on the knees, which is entirely new to the 32-year old veteran.
Now, after a month of the season, along with given clearance to ramp up activity, Grandal has struggled mightily with a slash of .121/.354/.259, a 93 wRC+, 2 HRs, 9 RBIs, and 19 BBs. Another glaring stat of Yas’s 2021 so far is that his ground ball rate is at 57.1%. Obviously, the nagging knee has impacted his ability to put the ball in the air, but there are some metrics that show Yasmani still has ability to pick it up moving forward.
Despite the sluggish start to the season, Grandal is still in the red in the majority of the Savant metrics, currently sitting in the 90th and 84th percentiles of average exit velocity and hard-hit %, respectively. Also, the 100th, 69th, and 96th percentiles of BB%, Whiff %, and Chase rate show Yas is still putting productive plate appearances together despite the glaring slash line numbers. Literally, Grandal has the highest BB rate of any qualified hitter in the MLB at 24.7%. As always, his framing is still solid, being in the 80th percentile, but the byproduct of being a good framer comes the catcher’s interference woes in which he has committed four times this season, being a league-high. Last year, Grandal only had one catcher’s interference, in the wild card series versus the Oakland Athletics, and it seems the amount is up early on due to the nagging knee and catching in a new stance of the one knee setup.
According to Fangraphs projections, Yas is on track to a slash .219/.347/.420 along with a 107 wRC+, 19 HRs, and a 3.1 WAR, which is on par with the top performers of the catcher position. Yasmani has been subjected to a ton of scrutiny and criticism on social media for his slow starts to the two seasons with the White Sox, that it has gone as far as bringing upon the debate that Rick Hahn was better off resigning James McCann instead of acquiring Grandal entirely.
To put that debate to bed, McCann isn’t performing at all better, with a slash line of .215/.282/.262 with a .543 OPS, 1 HR, and 5 RBIs. Along with the poor offensive numbers, McCann’s advanced metrics are mainly in the blue and white percentiles, as he is also off to a sluggish start coming off signing a 4 year, $40 Million contract with the New York Mets.
Some of the scrutiny and criticism towards Yas is definitely warranted, but given the fact that his advanced metrics are still high and the rest of season projections are on par with the position, it’s way too early for fans to get worried about Grandal’s start to the 2021 season. Ultimately, fans need to remember that we are not playing a 60 game short season in 2021. It’s a full 162-game slate this season. As the old saying goes, the baseball season is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Featured Photo: USA Today
- Stats/Savant Metrics accurate as of May 5th, 2021