Weight: 215 lbs.
What He Brings
Grandal is the year’s top catching prospect other than Bryce Harper (who might not end up a catcher), and there’s little doubt that he’ll stick at the position. He was a top talent in the 2007 draft, expected to go in the second or third round, but signability dropped him to the Red Sox in Round 27. He went on to Miami, and he’s been a solid performer, exploding this season to put up the line you see above. Back in high school, he was seen as a great defensive prospect with a questionable bat. Some of those questions about the bat have dissolved, but his most attractive qualities concern his catching skills.
Grandal’s catching tools are good, not great. But he knows what he’s doing behind the plate, and he combines the two to create a great overall package. His arm isn’t elite, but it’s strong enough and he has great instincts and strong footwork, making him a deterrent to would-be base-stealers. Of course, catching is more than just throwing, and Grandal is a plus across the board. He calls his own games, is agile behind the plate, blocks well, and shows a good energy overall.
At the plate, he’s a switch hitter, something you almost never see in a catcher. He looks good from the left side, showing a swing that should generate power in the pros. He loads his hands, has enough of an incline to produce loft, involves his lower body, and rotates his hips very well. He also has a cautious eye. What’s more, he’s always been a player who’s shown strong secondary skills in college. There’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll continue to show those skills to some extent as he proceeds with his career.
What He Doesn’t Bring
There may be no questions—or at least very few, as far as catchers are concerned—about Grandal’s defense, but there are a few about his offense. He is a switch hitter. But his right-handed swing is pretty poor. It’s mostly arms, and it doesn’t look at all natural. I don’t think he’ll hit for much power from that side, nor do I think he’ll ever be an asset of any sort against lefties. It might even be better that he give up switch hitting altogether, but whoever drafts him should give him every opportunity to fail first.
Grandal’s not free and clear from the left side either. What gives him attractive power also adds length to his swing path, causing some to question whether he’ll hit for contact at higher levels. And before 2010, he wasn’t a good contact hitter at all, batting just .234 as a freshman, .299 as a sophomore. The good news is that he’s never been an easy strikeout, which certainly gives hope for his contact skills in the future.
The other issues are rather minor quibbles. The arm strength is merely good. He can’t run, but what catcher can? Stuff like that.
Catchers make for infuriating prospects. Half the ones you see won’t stick at the position for defensive reasons. The other half won’t hit enough to be successful regulars. Instead, you find a large number of platoon-types and backups, while a special few become useful everyday players. It’s very difficult to figure out which ones are which, even years after the draft. The skill set required is so unique and the position so demanding that their development tends to come in fits and spurts.
By all appearances, Grandal looks like one of the good ones. He’s very solid defensively, and his bat shows plenty of promise. He looks like he should be the rare catcher that advances somewhat quickly, depending on that contact rate holding up. I could see him becoming sort of a Kurt Suzuki-type with a little more ability. Good defense, iffy batting ability with good power and good patience. (For a less recent example, his skill sets are very similar to Tom Haller or Darrell Porter, both very good players, which might represent his ceiling.)
All things considered, I like Grandal, and I think taking him would be one of the smartest things the Mets can do with the seventh pick. That is, if he’s still there. I’ve been hearing things that he might go as high as fourth, which would remove him from the mix for the Mets.