Bill Schmidt continues to be busy in his first year as the Rockies' permanent general manager. In his first trade as the sole face at the helm, Schmidt sent Raimel Tapia to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Randal Grichuk. In a down year last season, Grichuk began to lose regular playing time with a Toronto team that is crowded with talent. Tapia was bumped from his regular spot in Colorado, so a change of scenery could be exactly what both players need. Toronto gets a versatile bench piece, while the Rockies add an everyday bat that can help provide some pop that they surely need. So, let’s take a look at Grichuk and how he fits in with the new look Colorado Rockies.
Unlike Emperor Palpatine, the Rockies did not have unlimited power in 2021. They ranked 21st in home runs, with their outfielders ranking 25th in all of baseball. Schmidt was intent on boosting the offense and many thought he was done after signing Kris Bryant, but he has added another power bat in Randal Grichuk. In every full season since 2016, Grichuk has hit at least 22 bombs, including a career-high 31 home runs with Toronto in 2019. His career .473 slugging percentage is nothing to sneeze at, and with the prospect of playing half his games at Coors Field, Grichuk could see an uptick in his power numbers across the board.
Grichuk knows that power is his greatest strength offensively. In his first game with the Rockies, he said “There’s obviously a conversation to be had with the coaching staff and the hitting coach about how they want me to view myself as a hitter and going into the year. It’s high slugging and trying to be a tough out in the box.”
The main cause for concern with Grichuk is that he doesn’t get on base as much as you’d like. He has a career 5.6% walk rate which is not good, including a 5.0% rate last season that was his lowest since a brief stint with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014. He lowered his strikeout rate to a career-low 20.9% last season, but his inability to get on-base outside of his power is a worrisome trait, especially on a team that has struggled with getting on-base the past couple of seasons. He has a tendency to get streaky at times, something the Rockies are quite familiar with themselves.
However, despite the worrisome traits, Grichuk is going to hit the ball in the air and hit it hard. In his career, he’s averaged a fly ball about 43% of the time, and 16.7% of those fly balls have turned into home runs. His average launch angle sits at 16.3 degrees with an average exit velocity of 90.1 mph, both of which bode well for hitting home runs and finding the outfield gaps in Colorado.
He will need to continue improving his plate discipline. Grichuk makes plenty of contact on pitches inside the zone (84.5%) but his tendency to chase out of the zone could cause some problems, especially in situations where the Rockies will be counting on him to drive in runs in big situations in the latter half of the lineup. However, despite a lower average and on-base percentage, a trip to Colorado could help Grichuk find a resurgence, just like C.J Cron in 2021.
“Everybody thinks of the power you can put up there,” said Grichuk, “but [it’s] also just the better on-base and the better average with how big the outfield is.”
Let’s just hope he can figure out how to hit on the road along with the rest of the team.
On paper, it seems to be a one-to-one trade defensively for Grichuk and Tapia. While Tapia has the better speed to chase down baseballs, his decisions in the outfield were worrisome, and would often be unable to hit the cutoff man. Grichuk on the other hand has been at least average in the outfield while lacking speed makes up for it with a strong arm. The problem is that neither of them is best suited for centerfield.
Grichuk played 96 games in centerfield last season for Toronto where he registered a -2 DRS and a -3.2 UZR. Those numbers should be alarming for a team that has the biggest outfield in baseball at home. Both Sam Hilliard and Garrett Hampson have the better range to cover the outfield, but it’s a gamble the Rockies seem comfortable taking to get his bat in the lineup.
Ideally, Grichuk could play more often in right field where he had 6 DRS and a 5.5 UZR in 71 games last season. That move, however, would require Charlie Blackmon to serve as the designated hitter more often than not, but the team seems intent on keeping their veteran on the field more than they probably should. Grichuk will have his work cut out for him, but if he can at least play average or slightly above average defensively in center, the Rockies should be in good shape.
Grichuk’s era begins
All in all, I’m optimistic about the acquisition of Randal Grichuk. With the addition of Kris Bryant and now Grichuk, the Rockies have added some firepower to the lineup that they were missing last season. Grichuk fits a different mold in the lineup, being that power bat that will fit into the three true outcomes model. The Rockies will find a way to get his bat into the lineup and I’m anxious to see some more awe-inspiring homers from the new outfielder.
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Our pal Thomas Harding caught up with the Elehuris Montero to chronicle his journey in baseball and what the Rockies are excited about with the prospect that they traded Nolan Arenado for. Montero’s power bat was one the best surprises last season in the minors for the organization, and it won’t be too long because he’s blasting dingers at Coors Field.
Speaking of Randal Grichuk, the new Rockies outfielder blasted a two-run home run to left in his debut as the Rockies went on to win 7-6 over the Texas Rangers. Austin Gomber made his spring debut, tossing three innings and allowing one run on two hits. Chad Kuhl also made his Rockies debut but ran into trouble in his third inning of work when he loaded the bases and then gave up a three-run double to Willie Calhoun. He ended his day having allowed three runs on five hits in 2 2⁄3 innings.
Randal Grichuk 2-run HR!— RoxGifsVids (@RoxGifsVids) March 26, 2022
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