Cincinnati Reds

Reds' top pick Grandal has lofty goals

First-round draft pick Yasmani Grandal signed a cap for a fan during the Reds Caravan last weekend. The switch-hitting catcher batted .401 with 15 homers and 60 RBI for Miami last season.
First-round draft pick Yasmani Grandal signed a cap for a fan during the Reds Caravan last weekend. The switch-hitting catcher batted .401 with 15 homers and 60 RBI for Miami last season.

When the Cincinnati Reds' caravan came to Lexington last weekend, fans quickly recognized the stars of the show.

There were the Hall of Famer (Joe Morgan) and Mr. Perfect (Tom Browning).

There were the division-clinching home-run hitter (Jay Bruce) and front-office big-wigs (Bob and Phil Castellini, plus Walt Jocketty).

But who was that at the end of the table?

Yasmani Grandal.

An unusual name that, if he plays the way the Reds expect, soon may be as well known to Reds fans as Aroldis Chapman.

Like Chapman, last year's fireballing sensation, Grandal is from Cuba.

Unlike Chapman, Grandal is not a recent arrival.

Now 22, Grandal emigrated with his mother and grandparents to Florida 12 years ago.

Coming out of high school, he was a 27th-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox.

A switch-hitting catcher, Grandal wisely passed on Boston and opted to play college ball for Miami (Fla.). Last June, the Reds made him a first-rounder (12th overall), signing him for $2.9 million.

His first pay-day splurges went to buy his parents a house (in Miami) and new wheels (Chevy Suburban).

"It's been their life dream to get a house for themselves and I'm glad I got to get them one," Grandal said. "They love traveling, so I just had to get them a big car where they feel comfortable traveling and taking my little sister out wherever they want."

As a 10-year-old, he didn't even dream such a future.

"I had no clue. I was so young, I wasn't really thinking about anything," said Grandal, who spoke no English until coming to America. "I just knew I was coming here and that was about it. Expectations — you don't have any expectations. You're just glad you've come here."

Now he has major-league dreams.

At Miami last season, he hit .401 with 15 homers and 60 RBI over 62 games. He drew 57 walks (13 intentional) to 35 strikeouts.

In eight games with the Arizona League Reds last August, he went 8-for-28 (.286) with an RBI and four runs.

According to Baseball America, he enters this year as the Reds' sixth-rated prospect. (Chapman is No. 1.)

That Grandal was available with the 12th overall pick was a bit of a surprise. Some projections had him pegged to go as high as No. 4.

The Reds couldn't pass on Grandal, even though they have a 2007 first-round catcher (Devin Mesoraco) that Baseball America rates the No. 3 prospect in the system.

"I think he's definitely a great ball player, so we're going to have to compete," Grandal said. "And that's a good thing, to have competition in the organization."

The scouting report on Grandal is that he is a good defensive player with a great arm. He threw out 15 of 32 base runners last season at Miami. He hits with gap-to-gap power from both sides, although he is a natural lefty.

Grandal says that his biggest shortcoming is a lack of speed and that he has "got a lot of holes that I need to fix defensively and offensively."

He expects to fill those holes. The sooner, the better.

"My expectations are high," Grandal said. "Obviously, my main goal is to make it to the big leagues. I know I'm going to start somewhere in the minor leagues. I don't know where I'm going to start. It all depends on spring training. I'm hoping for somewhere from Low A to Double A. If I do that, have a good spring and a good season, you never know what might happen."

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