After posting an .863 OPS in 226 plate appearances last season, Yasmani Grandal figured to be a key piece of the Padres' offense in 2013. While that likely will still be the case, it won't happen anytime in the first two months of the season.
On Wednesday afternoon, Major League Baseball suspended the 24-year-old catcher for 50 games for testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing drug.
In the wake of an excellent career at the University of Miami, the Cincinnati Reds selected Grandal with the 12th-overall pick in the 2010 draft. A switch-hitter with the potential for an above-average hit and power tool from both sides of the plate, he also possessed arguably the best plate discipline in his draft class.
In 2011, his first full season as a professional, Grandal posted a .901 OPS while playing at three different minor league levels—including four games at Triple-A Louisville to close the year.
But prior to the start of the 2012 season, however, he was traded by the Reds, along with Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yonder Alonso, to the Padres in return for Mat Latos. And after only 56 games in the minor leagues with his new team, Grandal was called up in early June to spell an ailing and unproductive Nick Hundley.
So after his quick ascent to the major leagues and subsequent success, Grandal had the potential to be one of the better offensive catchers in the game in 2013. Although he’ll presumably still have the opportunity to play in roughly 100 games, his absence is a tough blow for the Padres.
Not only do they lose a heart-of-the-order, switch hitter at a premium position, but they may also miss out on trading Nick Hundley this offseason.
At the onset of the 2012 season, the organization signed the 29-year-old to a team-friendly three-year, $9 million guaranteed contract through the 2014 season. But with Grandal’s suspension, it’s highly unlikely that the Padres will trade him considering he’s now their starting catcher—at least for the first 50 games.
Furthermore, they now lack sufficient protection in their batting order for Chase Headley considering that Grandal batted either fourth or fifth in 41 of his 60 games.
While the suspension seemingly will not impact his overall development, the nature of the suspension as well as its timing reflects selfishness and poor judgment, as everyone will now be forced to wait until 2014 to see what Grandal can accomplish over the course of a full season.