Yasmani Grandal Signs With Chicago White Sox Fantasy Baseball Impact
Yasmani Grandal has become the first big free agent to sign this offseason, inking a four-year, $73 million dollar deal with the Chicago White Sox Thursday. Before we dive into the impact on Grandal’s fantasy value, let’s first identify the key items to keep in mind when we evaluate a free agency hitter:
- Change in home ballpark
- Change in batting order and general lineup strength
- The combination of hitting environments and pitchers he will face most commonly in his new division
There are certainly other things to keep in mind, such as a manager/team’s stolen base trends. This does not impact a player like Grandal, who had five stolen bases last year.
From One Hitter’s Park, To Another
There are multiple ways to analyze park factors, so let’s take a look at a few of them. FanGraphs Park Factors has Miller Park as a slightly better home run park than Guaranteed Rate for lefties, but Guaranteed Rate still rates as six percent above league average. Being a switch hitter, we also need to consider the splits for righties. Those splits reveal that Miller Park and The Rate are both three percent above league average. Dan Richards of Pitcher List has determined that barreled balls hit at Miller Park result in home runs more of the time than at Guaranteed Rate, but both parks are above the league average. Despite playing half of his games at Miller Park last year, Grandal actually hit more home runs on the road (15) than at home (13). He also hit 18 doubles on the road compared to just eight at home.
With Grandal being a switch hitter, it becomes more difficult to analyze how his change in scenery will help or hinder him. What we do know is that he pulled the ball 40 percent of the time in 2019, regardless of which side he hit from. He made significantly harder contact against righties (49 percent) than lefties (44 percent), but both rank as above league average. Grandal launched 20 of his homers hitting lefty and eight of his homers from the right side. Due to Grandal hitting more homers and doubles on the road, we can reasonably conclude that his slugging percentage should not significantly change by switching teams.
Last year, Grandal was shuffled across the two and five spots in the batting order. He settled into the two-hole in mid-August. This spot in the order has proven to be the best spot for combined runs and RBI total by Baseball Reference. Sources around Twitter think that Grandal will hit anywhere between fourth and sixth with the White Sox. For what it’s worth, Roster Resource has Grandal hitting fourth. Both the Brewers and White Sox were below league average in team wRC+. However, we know that the White Sox have several hitters on the upswing in Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and eventually Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal. This lineup could easily turn into an above-average unit with Grandal getting tons of RBI opportunities in the middle of the order. Despite the near-certain drop in the lineup, Grandal could produce a similar combined runs and RBI total due to the potential quality of the lineup around him.
Divisional and League Strength
Grandal is leaving what some consider to be the most competitive division in baseball and heading over to the easiest division. With the Royals and Tigers absolutely terrible (fifth and ninth-worst team FIP in 2019), he will see a ton of below-average pitchers throughout 2020. When looking at ERA alone, both of these teams were in the bottom four in all of baseball in 2019. These two teams do have pitchers’ parks, however, so we have to factor that into our outlook. Still, given that the AL generates more offense, and we know that Grandal will see worse pitching (outside of the Indians) in the division, this is definitely a positive for him.
Steamer and Depth Charts have not fully updated their projections as a result of this signing, but given that we have determined not much will change for Grandal, it’s worth looking at them.
Clearly, I think that he will get regular rest with both James McCann and Zack Collins on the team, even if one (or even both) of them get traded for pitching. Despite the lower plate appearances, the counting stats are similar due to the belief that the Sox order will be above average in 2020.
As alluded to, this significantly dampers the fantasy outlook for James McCann, who was an All-Star last year. Zack Collins is currently slotted as the primary designated hitter, but that will almost certainly change. Grandal also rates as one of the best pitch framers in the game, which should help guys like Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, and Dylan Cease, in particular. A breakout guy like Lucas Giolito won’t see the same bump since he has established himself as a top-30 starter for 2020.
*Stats from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference