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What do we do with Randal Grichuk?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The offseason has been fairly uneventful for the Colorado Rockies. Sure, they have been more active than in years past, with a smorgasbord of minor league deals, trades, and a couple of major league acquisitions, but nothing that points the needle to a substantially better year in 2023.

For all intents and purposes, the Rockies are likely to run out a squad quite similar to the 2022 team, with some minor substitutions, and barring any significant mind-bending moves like trading for Shohei Ohtani or asking Deion Sanders to play center field. Plenty of fans are clamoring for more moves to be named, namely moving veterans like C.J. Cron or Randal Grichuk. There is a clear case to be made for C.J. Cron (one of which I agree with) but I have found myself a little more hesitant about Grichuk to the point where I think the 2023 Rockies should keep him on the roster.

A Case Against Grichuk

It’s no question that Grichuk’s first season in Colorado was a little lackluster. The power the Rockies had hoped for just wasn’t there like was expected because it fits into the same mold as 2021 Grichuk in Toronto.

The most notable culprit was the overabundance of ground balls that sapped his production potential. With a career-high 50.4% ground ball rate, Grichuk lost many opportunities due to the ground, and it’s something that Grichuk was well aware of and it confused him.

“Yes, it’s definitely higher than it’s been before,” he told Purple Row during a post-game interview, though he’s unsure as to why. “I don’t know. It’s one of the things that you just kind of see, and ask people, and see if it’s something mechanically, or just work on lifting the ball a little bit more in the offseason.”

Another significant factor that impacted this season was his road numbers. Like the majority of the roster, Grichuk suffered on the road to the tune of a .205 AVG with 74 strikeouts and a ground ball rate of 45.8% in 257 plate appearances. Despite putting up strong numbers at Coors Field, an inability to produce on the road plagued Grichuk like so many others.

Strikeouts became a problem along with his inconsistent power. For most of the year, Grichuk averaged about three home runs a month. He slugged nine home runs in the first half followed by 10 homers in the final couple of months. Sure, he had a modest amount of doubles, but when the Rockies' intention was for Grichuk to provide more pop in their lineup, especially with Coors Field playing a factor, his slugging was a sore disappointment.

Grichuk’s failures in 2022 came to be interpreted in one of two ways; sheer bad luck in his first season with a new team with unique challenges, or an indication that he is a veteran in steep decline that the team needs to move on from for the youngsters.

If we go with option two, it’s with the intent of making room for players like Nolan Jones, Michael Toglia, Brenton Doyle, or even Zac Veen so that they can get time in the outfield with a chance to produce in 2023. Plus, they come at a much cheaper price that can then be turned into another pitcher perhaps. Moving Grichuk opens up outfield flexibility for the future, something the Rockies are quite keen on for the years to come.

A Case for Grichuk

Now, let’s consider the first option I presented, the fact that Randal Grichuk felt a bit unlucky in 2022. When we look at just his basic counting stats, he fell close in line with what he did last season in Toronto. The main difference was that his batting average went up and he just struck out a bit more. But overall, it was the same amount of production from Grichuk. If he could just somehow decrease his groundball numbers, 2023 has the potential to be one of the better seasons of his career.

The fact remains that Grichuk is a man that can hit the ball hard, and be consistent about it. As pointed out by Thomas Harding in a recent article, Grichuk’s average and maximum velocities, and his hard-hit rate all were among the top 30 percent among MLB hitters last season has been consistently among leaders in hard contact measures. Good things happen when you can hit the ball hard, and if Grichuk can incorporate more line drives and fly balls, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the Rockies lineup.

A notable aspect of the quest to improve was talked about in the article from Harding. Grichuk has spent time with Marucci Sports at a facility in Baton Rouge. Using computer analysis and data from Baseball Performance Lab personnel, Grichuk’s “potential exit velocity” comes in at 129.9 mph which is a record of sorts, while also trying to figure out slight mechanical things that could help Grichuk improve his quality of contact.

Working things out in the cage, Grichuk found that he was using a “steep swing” instead of an upper-cut swing, a fact that was robbing him of the good contact he was looking for. This could explain an uptick in swing and misses and the ground balls because Grichuk must have made an unfavorable adjustment in his swing that hurt him.

Ultimately, Marucci worked through a number of different bat designs to find the right fit for Grichuk and get his hands where they need to be, so in any case, Grichuk has made a concerted effort to address his biggest set back in 2022, and I believe science and data can make a big difference for him.

We saw glimpses of the productive aspects of Grichuk’s bat throughout the year. For the month of August, he batted .337/.381/.490 with a modest four home runs. He then popped six homers in September but produced an abysmal .179 AVG in 26 games. In July he drove in 19 runs but produced a single home run and had a solid line overall. Grichuk just needs to put together all aspects of his approach because he is playing below his power potential, and hopefully Bam Bam Meulens and the research lab can unlock a consistent approach.

There is also the fact that the Rockies need to retain some sort of established veteran presence. Grichuk has at least been somewhat consistent in his career with his numbers. He’s a known quantity and since the Rockies won’t ever resort to a tear-down and rebuild mold, they can afford to hold on to Grichuk for one more season. That then gives some players a little more time to grow in the minors without being rushed into the spotlight in the bigs.

If Grichuk does have a strong first half, and the Rockies are well out of contention again, perhaps they can trade him at the deadline for a little bit better stock as opposed to now.

Time will Tell

Either way, the point that the Rockies need to be more active in significantly addressing their roster is still evident. However, in my own opinion, I’m okay with letting Grichuk have one more season splitting time in center and right field and potentially dropping more home runs because we know the Rockies need power.

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