Jays From The Couch Is Missing Blue Jays Baseball, So We’ll Preview The 2020 Season For Individual Players. This Time, Randal Grichuk
When the Toronto Blue Jays traded Conner Greene and Dominic Leone to the Cardinals for Randal Grichuk, they capitalized on St Louis’ plethora of outfielders. Now, heading into the 2020 season (whenever that starts), they are going to have him be their every day play center fielder.
Essentially, Grichuk appears to be the least unappealing option the club has for the position. There are guys who may be better suited defensively like Jonathan Davis, but they lack the offensive production the Grichuk has provided the Blue Jays thus far. Perhaps because of that production, and a lack of other options, the club gave him a 5 yr/$52M extension, which will keep him in Toronto through the 2023 season. Considering their lack of outfield depth, this might just be a smart bit of business for the Blue Jays.
But, isolating Grichuk from the context of the current outfield situation, there is room to be cautious about expectations for him. Baseball Savant doesn’t paint a very nice picture of the 28 year old. From an offensive perspective, he shows rather poorly in some key metrics:
Exit Velocity: 54th percentile
Hard Hit%: 55th percentile
These are somewhat scary numbers when you think that Girchuk is the BETTER outfield option at the plate. He’s a guy who doesn’t get on base very much as evidenced by the .280 OBP he put up in 2019. It doesn’t get much better when you consider some other factors. For example, since 2015, Grichuk’s EV has decreased steadily. He was 5th in MLB in 2015 and dropped to 114th in 2019. He Whiffed 28% of the time, swung over 50%, nerly 62% of which came on the first pitch. He chases a third of the time. His 2019 Barrel rate was the lowest of his career, which is startling considering he was near the top of the league in this metric 3 of the previous 4 seasons.
But, he hits for power, right? Everyone loves a home run. In 2019, Grichuk hit 31 of the beauties. However, Statcast has his 2019 xSLG in the 37th percentile. In fact, he saw a significant drop off in this category last season. That is not to say that he won’t hit any home runs when baseball starts back up again, but the one thing that we can expect from Grichuk may not be that reliable if he continues to show regression. And, at age 28, it is not unreasonable to expect that he does regress. Again, that’s not to say he will, but the numbers don’t look overly encouraging.
Of course, Grichuk can be counted on to produce more than an Anthony Alford or a Davis, which is why he’s going to get plenty of room to fail moving forward, even though either of the two above could be considered better defenders. But, one thing going in Grichuk’s favour is that he has been actually sneaky in showing his defensive skills.
In 2019, he was in the 76th percentile for Sprint Speed and in the 90th percentile for Outs Above Average. In total, he put up 6 OAA, 2 of which came in CF. Fangraphs lists 2 DRS in 486 innings of work to go with a UZR/150 of -0.6. For his part, in a VERY limited sample, Alford put up -1 DRS in the outfield in 2019, but a much better 14.5 UZR/150. In 2019, Davis put up -1 DRS and a UZR/150 of 6.9 in 225 innings. The fact that Grichuk has similar (if they can even be compared due to sample size) numbers to the others is somewhat surprising, but may give folks some comfort.
Whether it is because Randal Grichuk is the only viable, big league option for CF, or because he deserves to play there, the Toronto Blue Jays will run him out to take charge of the outfield. He’s a somewhat surprising defender whose bat has power, but is rather inconsistent and may even be declining. He may very well be an outfield band aid until the club can find a true center field, but you bet we’ll be hoping he’s more than just that.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.