Catcher Yasmani Grandal is batting .172 and finding ways to be valuable to White Sox

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Yasmani Grandal swings through a game-winning single off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Pete Fairbanks during the 10th inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Chicago. (AP) | Charles Rex Arbogast, AP Photos

“He’s a very intelligent guy and one of the most focused guys on his job I’ve been around,” coach Jerry Narron says.

White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal has such a weird batting line, especially for someone who, according to advanced metrics, is rated among the major leagues’ top catchers and is getting a fair amount of love from All-Star voters.

Fans voting for the All-Star Game haven’t been dissuaded from checking the box by Grandal, who takes a .172 average, .383 on-base percentage and .401 slugging percentage into the Sox “Reopening Night” game against the Mariners Friday. At last count, Grandal trailed only Salvador Perez in votes for American League catchers despite a batting average well below the Mendoza (.200) line.

A .237 career hitter who was an All-Star with the Dodgers in 2015 and Brewers in 2018, the switch-hitter with slug is the Sox’ third-best position player per FanGraphs wins above replacement behind Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, and just now he seems to be finding a rhythm at the plate.

Grandal hasn’t won a Gold Glove, which is “really surprising” to major league instructor Jerry Narron.

“I know it’s something he’d like to do,” Narron said.

Although ranked 28th in the majors in pitch framing, Grandal was fourth in each of the previous two seasons and is improving since returning to his normal catching stance after shifting to one knee following a knee injury in spring training. His .241 caught stealing percentage (22 of 29) ranks third behind Martin Maldonado (.450) and Perez (.350) in the AL, but his five passed balls are second only to Christian Vazquez. Grandal has five errors, three of them on catcher’s interference calls in April that Narron also relates to the one-knee stance (which extends the mitt farther). Pitch blocking isn’t Grandal’s strong suit, but not uncommon for good framers focused on that particular skill, Narron said.

Grandal is an ultra-selective hitter who always appears to be looking for a walk — his 54 bases on balls are second only to Joey Gallo, with 72 fewer plate appearances — but he is productive and can be dangerous. He gets on base, his hard-hit rates are high, and he rarely swings out of the strike zone. Grandal has only 27 hits, including 11 homers and three doubles and an average of one single a week.

Put it all together, though, and a 127 weighted runs created plus metric is right below the 128 of Perez among catchers.

The first phase of All-Star voting concluded Thursday and results will be announced Sunday. The top three at each position advance to the final phase.

Narron would consider Grandal’s intangibles if he had a vote.

“His experience with the Dodgers and Brewers postseason clubs is tremendous for us,” Narron said.

“He’s very prepared, he has a really good idea how to pitch guys and what our pitchers can and can’t do. He’s a very intelligent guy and one of the most focused guys on his job I’ve been around. He wants to do well on both sides of the ball. He takes a lot of pride in the defense.”

Trying to help the Sox get out of their longest losing streak of the season, Grandal hit a pinch three-run homer Tuesday to give them a lead over the Pirates – who eventually won – and hit a tie-breaking two-run double Wednesday in a 4-3 win.

“It’s starting to feel better and better,” Grandal said after coming through with a walk-off single against the Rays last week. “It just seems like every time I smoke a ball, it’s right at somebody.

“I’m going to continue to do whatever it is that I need to do. If that’s walking and getting on base, then I’m going to walk and get on base until I get my pitch to hit.”

NOTE: Friday is Re-Opening night at Guaranteed Rate Field, open to full capacity for the first time since 2019, a Country Music Night theme, postgame fireworks and the Sox wearing their City Connect uniforms.

MARINERS AT SOX

Friday: Yusei Kikuchi (4-3, 3.46) vs. Carlos Rodon (6-2, 1.83), 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM

Saturday: Logan Gilbert (2-2, 4.50) vs. Lance Lynn (7-3, 2.14), 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM

Sunday: Marco Gonzales (1-4, 5.10) vs. Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 3.98), 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM

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