March 15, 2011
In a perfect world, Yasmani Grandal will one day become the Queen City’s version of Jorge Posada or Ted Simmons, but with the added bonus of above-average defense. The potential is there, but for now the switch-hitting backstop is an unproven 2010 draft pick in his first big-league camp.
Taken 12th overall out of the University of Miami, the 22-year-old Grandal is rated by Kevin Goldstein as the fourth overall prospect in the Reds organization, while Baseball America ranks him sixth best, and ESPN’s Keith Law has him third.
The Cuban-born and Miami-raised Grandal was rated as the 19th-best high school prospect in the country when the Red Sox drafted him in 2007. Unsatisfied with Boston‘s contract offer, he took his talents to the collegiate ranks and went on to hit .401/.527/.721 with 15 home runs as a junior, earning himself a $2 million signing bonus, and a $3.2 four-year contract, from the Reds.
A Good Catch
“I’ve watched Yasmani since he was in the tenth grade, and he has continually improved,” said Buckley. “He’s a switch-hitting catcher with power from both sides of the plate, along with being a smart player who is very sound defensively.
“You can tell how we do things, because it’s not like we didn’t know we had Devin Mesoraco,” continued Buckley. “He was in Triple-A when we drafted Yasmani, but catching is hard to find and switch-hitting catchers who have power are really hard to find. We just thought that he was too good to pass up.”
An executive for a rival National League liked the pick, in part because he has a high opinion of Buckley’s scouting acumen.
“Grandal was definitely a first rounder,” said the executive. “The Reds have had a good recent history of making good picks and not getting a lot of credit for it, either. A lot of people fell off the Mesoraco bandwagon two years ago and now everyone is back on it. A lot of people questioned [Drew] Stubbs and now he’s one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, along with having some power and being able to steal a lot of bases. [Yonder Alonso] is another guy. They know what they’re doing over there.”
Waxing on Ceilings
Just how good Grandal will become is a matter of opinion. He dominated at the collegiate level, but because he signed late his professional experience coming into camp consisted of just eight games in the Arizona Rookie League.
According to the NL executive, Grandal profiles as a desirable player, but possibly not a great one. He notes, “He’s a good catch-and-throw guy. He seemingly is baseball intelligent. He calls a good game. That said, he might be more of your steady-Eddie type of player behind the plate. I like him, but it will also be interesting to see what he does at the plate, average-wise. And while he has power from both sides, he’s a better left-handed hitter than right—quite a bit better.”
Asked for his opinion on the rival exec’s “steady-Eddie” assessment, Buckley opined that Grandal will be far better than that, stating, “I wouldn’t say that's accurate,” said Buckley. “For one thing, it’s such a scarce position these days and there are very few switch-hitting catchers with his power. 'Steady-Eddie' in the big leagues can be a catcher who hits .240 with 10 home runs. We’re looking at a guy with plus power who plays really well defensively and has strong leadership qualities. That makes him way more than a steady-Eddie.”
According to a scout for a National League team, the picture on draft day wasn’t as clear as Buckley or even the National League executive viewed it.
“You break guys down into the hitting part and the fielding part,” explained the scout. “There is ‘He will hit, he might hit, and he won’t hit,’ and ‘He will defend, he might be able to defend, and he won’t defend.’ If it’s Adam Dunn, it’s ‘He will hit, but he won’t defend.’ With Cesar Izturis, it’s ‘He will defend, but he won’t hit.’ With Grandal, as a young player, it is ‘He might hit and he might catch.’
“For us, there was a little bit of a question about him behind the plate and there was also a little bit of a question about how good he was going to be offensively. While we felt that he was one of the better players available, we also felt that there were some question marks in the package. We liked him, but we had a few reservations.”
Both Sides Now
As the NL executive pointed out, the young switch-hitter has caused far more damage from the left side of the plate than the right. According to Buckley, the Reds aren’t concerned.
“That’s true of a lot of switch-hitters, because there is just so much more right-handed pitching,” said Buckley. “Heck, you can go six games without batting right-handed. Yasmani has very good power from the right side. A lot of times you’ll hear, 'Well, he didn’t handle left-handed pitching all that well,' but those same type of things were said about Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, to give you two examples.
“[Teams] sign so many of your better left-handed pitchers coming out of high school that some of these kids aren’t really seeing quality left-handed pitching until they get to Double-A, or even Triple-A,” continued Buckley. “Numbers like that can also be very skewed, because you’re looking at a small sample size for an amateur player. We see him just getting better.”
Whether Grandal becomes good enough to merit legitimate comparisons to Posada and Simmons won’t be determined for a few more years. He is expected to begin this season in High-A Bakersfield, where the hitter-friendly California League should be to his liking. From there it’s up to him to prove that Buckley and the Reds scouting staff was right on the money.