Take a deep breath. The Nick Hundley extension won’t hurt Grandal’s chances of getting to the major leave level.
We all know Yasmani Grandal is a highly rated prospect at catcher. We all know he was one of the key pieces in the Mat Latos trade. So with Nick Hundley‘s contract extension, it’s easy to see why some are worried about Grandal’s place. Was it a waste getting him in the Latos deal? Absolutely not.
Let’s first focus on what Grandal brings to the table. He is a 23-year old switch-hitting catcher with a lot of promise. Baseball America rated him the 53rd best prospect in baseball. Seedlings to Stars rated him 36th best. And MLB.com rated him 68th best. So, he’s good. He’s got two minor league seasons spanning rookie league to Triple-A behind him, and he’s performed exceptionally along the way. His minor league slash-line is .303/.401/.488.
He only played four games for Triple-A Louisville last season, so he’ll start with Triple-A Tucson this year. But when he is called up, Grandal will get playing time.
On Tuesday, NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk had the following headline: “Padres sign Nick Hundley long-term, block prospect Yasmani Grandal’s path to the majors”
It’s clear that many people question the Hundley extension, but what most fail to realize is the number of games Hundley has averaged in his career. In the last three seasons, Hundley has averaged just shy of 82 games played per year. That leaves almost half a season’s worth of time for Grandal to eat up behind the plate. Hundley, as most catchers experience, gets fatigues, needs platoon help, and has been bitten by the injury bug. But even beyond Hundley’s limited game time (obviously we all hope he plays in more than 82 games), Grandal still has a spot all set for him in the lineup.
As I mentioned above, Grandal played in just 4 games at Triple-A last year. He still needs some time in Tucson prior to getting bumped to the major league club. Assuming Grandal finds himself on the 2013 opening day roster, one year of the Hundley extension is already gone. That leaves just three years . If the Padres want to slowly introduce Grandal to the big leagues, they can still give Hundley the bulk of the at-bats while introducing Grandal to the lineup. By 2014, the team can start to shift Grandal into a bigger role. He and Hundley can split time evenly throughout the 2014 and 2015 season.
If Hundley sticks around for the entire contract he was just given, Grandal will be just 27 at the start of the 2016 season, the first without Nick Hundley. That would make Grandal one year younger than Hundley is currently. It seems to be the perfect transition from clubhouse leader and veteran to promising young prospect. By that time, hopefully Grandal has learned from his major league experience and can step in as the team’s new clubhouse leader.
There should be little concern that Hundley’s extension blocks Grandal at all. I would be shocked to see his promotion to the Padres delayed at all by this contract. If all goes according to plan, John Baker will be a temporary (and hopefully effective) back-up to be replaced by Grandal. And once Hundley’s contract runs its course, Grandal will take the reigns.
What do you think? Will Grandal lose playing time at the big league level because of Hundley’s contract?