Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grandal is slowly starting to show his value

It may have taken a few weeks, but Yasmani Grandal is finally getting locked in.

And the Dodgers are starting to reap the benefits of the Matt Kemp trade.

Grandal had his "Welcome to the Dodgers" moment on Sunday, smashing a 424-foot walk-off home run, lifting the Dodgers to a 1-0 victory over the Diamondbacks in 13 innings.  It was a well-pitched, albeit largely boring affair between two teams that were desperate to score.  Thankfully, Grandal gave the Dodgers a much-needed jolt.

The final result gave the Dodgers a three-game weekend sweep.  At 16-8, they have a three-game lead over the Padres for tops in the NL West.  It's much too early to worry about that, but hey, first place at any point is still pretty sweet.

For Grandal, he became the unlikely hero after not even being in the starting lineup.  On Saturday night, he broke out of a five-game hitless slump to go 3-for-4 with a double and run scored.  That game alone raised his average from .179 to .217, and today's 1-for-1 with a walk raised it again to .230.  Not at all where he wants to be, but with a .356 OBP, he's clearly getting there.

Back in the middle of December, after the Dodgers completed a flurry of moves in the Winter Meetings, they finally pulled the trigger on trading Kemp.  It was done for a couple of reasons: they weren't sold on Kemp being the long-term answer after his many injuries, and they needed to free up the outfield logjam.  They still have too many outfielders, but not finding the need to cater to Kemp's demands is a relief.

The biggest name coming to the Dodgers was Grandal, who in the past had torn both is ACL and MCL, and had been busted 50 games for PED use.  Not exactly the type of guy most Dodger fans thought they'd get for the former MVP candidate in Kemp.

Grandal, though, was a big piece in the Dodgers' makeover towards a more complete lineup.  A.J. Ellis would no longer be relied upon as the everyday catcher, and considering he hit an atrocious .191 in 93 games in 2014, that was a good thing.  Grandal gave a lot more pop with 15 homers in '14, and the reputation of being a great pitch-framer behind the plate.

After a couple of big weekend games, the switch-hitter looks ready to consistently start driving in more runs in the lower half of the lineup.  More importantly, he can keep Ellis on the bench for only occasional spot starts, such as day games after a night one.  No one will ever question Ellis's heart, but with all due respect to him, he's a backup at this point, and needs to stay that way.

Now Grandal and the Dodgers invade the hitter-friendly Miller Park in Milwaukee for four games starting Monday.  With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, you can bet the bats are looking to add to their NL-leading 37 home runs.  They're in the perfect place to make it happen.

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