Where Yasmani Grandal stands with the Dodgers' brass is unclear. After being the bell cow backstop for much of the season, a second-half swoon dropped him into a September platoon. In the playoffs, Grandal only started twice, pinch-hitting in another pair of games. The reason wasn't defense as Grandal rated well with the leather. Unfortunately, he slumped at the same time Austin Barnes got hot, coinciding with the Dodgers needing an offensive spark. For the season, Grandal's numbers were basically as expected, fueled by a .267/.319/.469 first half. Coming off a 2016 season with a career-best 25.2 percent HF/FB, he reverted to 17.7 percent. Grandal displayed marked platoon splits, unusual for a switch hitter, slashing just .233/.320/.349 versus southpaws. Grandal's exit velocity and barrels dropped considerably from 2016, likely from his troubles with left-handers. Still just 29 years old, Grandal is too good to be a backup, plus Barnes is able to play other positions, so at a minimum, Grandal should play against right-handed pitching.
Grandal went 3-for-5 with a grand slam and five total RBI in Sunday's spring win over the Rockies. It was the switch-hitting catcher's third homer of the exhibition campaign, including one against a southpaw, who he has historically struggled against in his career. The Athletic reports that Grandal was tweaking his swing in an effort to increase his launch angle -- and in turn, increase his power output. Grandal was one of just six major-league catchers to reach the 20-homer plateau last season, and he appears poised to post another as long as he can stay ahead of Austin Barnes on the depth chart this year.
Grandal worked on his swing this offseason with the intention of increasing his launch angle, The Athletic reports. Grandal is attempting to join the launch angle revolution. Notable success stories among those who have attempted to improve their slugging percentage by hitting more balls in the air include Josh Donaldson, J.D. Martinez, and Grandal's teammate Justin Turner, though not everyone has benefited from changing their swing. Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight found that only about half of the hitters who increased their launch angle saw the desired improvements. Don't assume that Grandal will automatically be better this season, but there's at least a chance that he finds some untapped power in 2018.
Grandal and the Dodgers avoided arbitration by agreeing on a one-year, $7.9 million contract Thursday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. Despite the two parties agreeing on a contract for next season, it's still unclear where Grandal stands with the Dodgers' brass at this point. The backstop served as the team's starting catcher for most of the season, but his second-half struggles saw the hot-hitting Austin Barnes step into the starting role down the stretch. Still, Grandal hit a respectable .247/.308/.459 with 22 homers in 482 plate appearances (129 games), and given the fact that Barnes can play other positions, he should see his fair share of starts behind the dish, especially against right-handed pitching.
Grandal is out of the lineup for Game 5 of the NLCS against the Cubs on Thursday. Grandal will head to the bench for the fourth time in this series as Austin Barnes is set to catch Clayton Kershaw and bat seventh in the lineup. Over the course of the postseason, Grandal is just 0-for-5 at the plate, with three walks and two strikeouts.
Grandal is not in the lineup for Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cubs on Tuesday, Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA.com reports. Grandal is 0-for-7 in his career against Kyle Hendricks -- including an 0-for-3 performance in last year's NLCS -- so he'll open Game 3 on the bench as Austin Barnes draws another start behind the dish in his stead.