Time for the Dodgers to rethink their catching situation

When Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best pitcher in the MLB, is slated to face the Philadelphia Phillies, arguably the worst team in the MLB not named the San Francisco Giants, you would think that Dodger fans would be celebrating following Monday night’s game between the two teams at Citizen’s Bank Park.

They did not.

Were it not for an 88-mph slider that the three-time NL Cy Young award winner and former NL MVP grooved right over the middle of the plate to Phillies left fielder Aaron Altherr with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning, they might have been. Instead, the .276-hitting outfielder, who to this point had hit a grand total of 25 home runs over his four-year major league career, absolutely crushed Kershaw’s mistake, sending it 418 feet into the second deck in left field for a devastating grand slam home run – the first that Kershaw has allowed in his 10-year MLB career.

(Video capture courtesy of SportsNet LA)

But with three innings left to play in the now 4-2 ballgame and with a September roster 39 players deep, you would think that the Dodgers, the best team in baseball, would have no problem overcoming a measly two-run deficit over the Phillies, the second worst team in baseball, and pick up the guy who has carried the franchise for the past decade.

They did not.

Even though Curtis Granderson, who the Dodgers acquired from the New York Mets on August 18 and who has hit a pathetic .113 since, homered with one out in the top of the ninth to make it a 4-3 ballgame and pinch-hitter Corey Seager, who had been given the night off by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, struck out swinging, it’s what Roberts did next that he will be remembered for most in this still very winnable game against the second-worst team in all of baseball – he had struggling catcher Yasmani Grandal, who was 2-for-37 (.054) in the month of September, pinch-hit for replacement shortstop Charlie Culberson, who had not yet batted in the game but is 1-for-5 (.200) since his September 1 call-up.

Grandal struck out on three pitches to end the game.

Not only did Grandal strike out to end the game on Monday night, he did so on a ball that was clearly out of the strike zone. (Video capture courtesy of SportsNet LA)

There is no kind way to say this, but Yasmani Grandal is absolutely lost at the plate right now, which most certainly is no place to be with the postseason a mere two weeks away. As such, there is no way that Roberts can justify playing Grandal in front of fellow catcher Austin Barnes, who although is only 6-for-25 in September (.240), is hitting .290 on the season with an excellent .415 on-base percentage. Barnes is also exceptionally fast (he has four stolen bases to Grandal’s none) and can play multiple infield positions if needed … which brings us to the next point. If not Grandal, then who?

This is anything but a September to Remember for Yasmani Grandal. (Click on image to enlarge)

On September 9, the Dodgers recalled catcher / utility infielder Kyle Farmer from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 27-year-old Atlanta, Georgia native and Dodgers eighth-round draft pick in 2013 out of the University of Georgia had already appeared in 12 games for the Dodgers prior to his recall, during which he went 4-for-12 at the plate (.333) with a double and two RBIs. And while 12 total major league at-bats is most definitely a bit on the light side to take into the postseason, Farmer has already shown tremendous poise under pressure. In his very first major league at-bat on July 30, the extremely polite former Georgia Bulldog lined a two-RBI double down the right-field line to give the Dodgers a dramatic bottom-of-the-11th-inning 3-2 walk-off win over the San Francisco Giants.

Talk about cool under pressure. Kyle Farmer’s first major league hit was a two-RBI walk-off double against the Giants on July 30, 2017. (Photo credit – Richard Mackson)

Simply put, Farmer appears to be a far better back-up catching option behind Austin Barnes than a helplessly hopelessly lost Yasmani Grandal. That being said, the Dodgers sure could use Grandal’s power bat, with which he has slugged 19 home runs this season. The problem is, nobody knows where it is.

…especially Yasmani Grandal.


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3 Responses to “Time for the Dodgers to rethink their catching situation”

  1. Respect the Rivalry says:

    It’s long been my opinion that catcher is a defense first position. Good hitting is a bonus. I’ve never considered Yas to be a very good defensive catcher. As a hitter he’s too streaky. If he gets on a hot streak in October he can carry the team. If he’s hitting like he is now there’s nothing to justify having him on the roster.
    I know he has a high defensive ranking but those rankings seem to put a high premium on framing. IMHO framing is grossly overrated. Pitches are supposed to be called where they cross home plate, not where the catcher catches them.
    The emphasis on framing has led me to support electronic pitch calls. I have a lot to say regarding that, and some questions, but that’s off topic.
    I do agree with you, Ron, but it’d sure be nice if Kyle catches a pitch or two before the post-season.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Couldn’t agree more point for point.

      One of the frustrations of following the minor leagues as closely as I do (at least at the Advanced Single-A level) is getting a good look at the (potential) future Dodgers, a few of whom I consider to be as good and in some cases better than some of the guys on the Dodgers current 25-man roster (and who are making millions). I pay extra close attention to the catchers (and obviously the pitchers) because in addition to the pitcher, the catcher is involved in every play.

      In my opinion and ridiculously over-inflated MLB contracts aside, 19-year-old Keibert Ruiz is the best Dodgers catching prospect to come along since Mike Piazza. Ruiz skyrocketed his way through the Dodgers low minors and finished the 2017 season at Rancho Cucamonga.

      Although it doesn’t happen often for a 19-year-old, I would not be the least bit surprised to see Ruiz get a non-roster invitation to big league camp next spring.

      Yes, he’s THAT good … on both sides of the ball.

  2. oldbrooklynfan says:

    I’m amazed that these Phillies lost so many games this year. They look like they have a very good ballclub.

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