A sickness has been sweeping the Dodgers clubhouse, causing as many as 25 players to be sent home from Camelback Ranch the last few days. Thursday’s scheduled starting pitcher Ross Stripling was scratched due to the as-of-now mysterious illness. Manny Banuelos instead gets the start, a pitcher this writer has never heard of.
One player who didn’t (yet) succumb to the illness is catcher Yasmani Grandal, and his play behind the plate has not been stellar. Yes, this is with the caveat that it’s only a week into spring training, and one can be rusty with their defensive skills. But one would still hope that a veteran catcher such as Yaz would not be making the mental errors that he has been, having two passed balls in a game earlier in the week, and a ball he inexplicably threw into short center.
His bat has yet to get going this spring, also. He has a meager nine at-bats so far, but doesn’t have a hit. He has reached base twice, both via walk, and has struck out six times. Again, it’s early, and I’m sure he’ll get it together sooner rather than later. He has recently become a convert to the launch angle style of thinking at the bat, and that may still be working itself out.
What if he doesn’t quite get it together, though? Last year, he lost his starting job to Austin Barnes, who took over the majority of the backstop duties from the end of the season throughout the postseason. Dave Roberts had previously announced that the Dodgers would go back to the platoon with Grandal and Barnes they implemented last year, with Grandal mainly facing righties and Barnes facing lefties.
Adding more intrigue to the mix, Kyle Farmer sits waiting in the wings. He is making the most of his spring training. In just eight at-bats, he has five hits with two doubles, and a 1.575 OPS. He also has been working in the offseason on his flexibility and pitch framing, turning to Pilates to help him.
“Now I think getting my hips lower to the ground I can work up to the ball rather than kind of going at it and not being able to manipulate the pitch”, he told Bill Plunkett last month.
Farmer is a 27-year-old converted shortstop who spent minimal time in the big leagues as a utility man last year.
And if Farmer wasn’t enough, the Dodgers also have Keibert Ruiz, who is currently ranked third of all L.A. prospects. Everyone speaks highly of his promise, and of who he is as a person. Then there’s also Will Smith, who already has a double and a home run during 2018 Cactus League play. The Dodgers are set up at the catching position for a long time.
So back to where this leaves Yaz. I think, if he starts getting out-produced at the plate, and he is still letting a lot of passes balls go by, he might be gone at the trade deadline. He is signed through the end of this season, owed $7.9M, and is eligible for free agency at the end of the year. Either way, there’s a good chance this is the last year Grandal is in Dodger Blue.
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