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Grandal Sparks The Padres, Fantasy Lineups

Catcher is baseball's weakest offensive position - the league average for backstops is .246/.314/.397 this year - and arguably the shallowest position in fantasy. You have the elite guys like Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer, the bottom-feeders like Miguel Olivo and Russell Martin, and not a whole lot in-between. Any time an A.J. Ellis-type surprises, he's plucked off the waiver wire in short order. Unless you're rostering one of the top guys, you almost have to hunt catchers like saves in free agency and ride hot streaks.

The latest catching fad is 23-year-old Yasmani Grandal, a switch-hitting rookie who's clubbed four homers in five games since being called up by the Padres last week. Part of last winter's Mat Latos trade, Grandal became the first player in baseball history to hit a home run from each side of the plate for his first two career big league hits. His pinch-hit, two-run dinger off David Hernandez yesterday gave San Diego their fifth straight win. Overall, Grandal has a .300/.300/.900 batting line in 20 plate appearances, a shiny performance in an insignificant sample.

Baseball America ranked Grandal as the fourth best prospect in Cincinnati's system prior to the trade, then placed him 53rd on their Top 100 Prospects List this spring. "[He] will provide above-average offense" because he "has a balanced approach, controls the strike zone and uses the entire field," they wrote in their subscriber-only scouting report. Grandal backed up that scouting report by hitting .335/.443/.521 with more walks (37) than strikeouts (35) in 235 plate appearances in Triple-A this year before being recalled, and it's worth noting that Tucson is a pretty neutral offensive environment according to StatCorner. He's a career .315/.415/.498 hitter in 709 minor league plate appearances after being the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Now obviously Grandal will not continue to hit homers at this pace, especially since he's yet to step to the plate at Petco Park since being recalled. His five games since last week have been played in Coors Field (two) and Chase Field (three), some pretty good hitting parks. Petco is quite the opposite. That said, the catcher offense bar is so low these days that Grandal is worth a roster spot just on his potential. He'll always be at the platoon advantage as a switch-hitter and he has the skill set to hit for average and pop some homers. His runs scored and RBI totals don't figure to be anything special given the lineup around him, but getting help in two of the traditional 5x5 scoring categories from your catcher is more than most guys can offer. There aren't many position players on the Padres worthy of a fantasy roster spot, but Grandal is clearly one of them.



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