One of the more compelling positional battles for the Los Angeles Dodgers has seemingly concluded, with Yasmani Grandal claiming victory.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Grandal is going to be getting most of the playing time at catcher to start the season, according to Dave Roberts.
#Dodgers Dave Roberts on catcher: “Yasmani is going to get most of the at-bats.”
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) March 20, 2018
This comes after a season in which Austin Barnes was the team’s primary catcher during their postseason run to the World Series.
Both had strong 2017 campaigns. Barnes ranked 11th among Major League catchers in WAR, while Grandal ranked 15th in WAR among Major League catchers.
Despite Barnes’ emergence last season, the decision isn’t especially surprising given what has occurred this Spring Training.
Grandal has a BA of .333, an OPS of 1.615, and 5 home runs in 39 at-bats during Cactus League action. Conversely, Barnes has a BA of .111, an OPS of .384, and no extra-base hits in 27 at-bats this Spring Training.
If the Cactus League was meant to be a meritocracy between two equally deserving catchers, Grandal has earned the starting role based on his superior performance during it.
Grandal is also a switch-hitter, which gave him an added advantage over Barnes in terms of strategic lineup insertions based on that game’s pitching matchup.
The Justin Turner injury also may play a role in this decision because of Barnes’ ability to play second base.
If Logan Forsythe slides over to third base from second base during Turner’s absence, then Roberts might want to utilize Barnes at second to get both him and Grandal into the lineup.
That would likely mean Kyle Farmer would make the Opening Day roster. That would give the Dodgers another option at catcher if they planned on Barnes getting extended playing time at second base.
The decision for Grandal to get the bulk of playing time at catcher is probably due to a few things. A combination of his strong Spring Training and Barnes’ ability to play second base while the lineup gets switched around to try to mitigate the loss of Turner
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