2015 Fantasy BaseballAndrew Miller

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Rookie Report – Randal Grichuk Soaring

Just like with Matt Duffy, for most of the season I’ve been thinking Randal Grichuk wasn’t a rookie. That’s probably because he played in 47 games in last year’s regular season and then started all nine St. Louis postseason games. He also debuted in April of last year, so he’s getting every last drop out of his rookie eligibility. And, my, how sweet those drops are. He’s currently tied for fourth in WAR among rookie hitters despite having only the 16th most at-bats (277) among them. He leads all rookies in Isolated Power at .284, and that mark ranks fifth among ALL hitters with at least 250 plate appearances. His .383 wOBA is 20 points higher than the second-best rookie, and his .148 wRC+ is 16 points higher than second place.

So while Grichuk gets far less hype than other rookies, he’s having an equal if not better year than most if not all rookie hitters. On the season Grichuk is hitting .288/.336/.572 with a 6 percent walk rate and 31 percent strikeout rate. You might think ‘Ugh’ at the strikeouts, but I’m willing to look past that number. Why? Because when he does make contact he does damage. His 40 extra-base hits lead all rookies, and he ranks 34th in the Majors in average home run-plus-fly ball distance. Since entering the starting lineup in early May Grichuk has more often than not had an exit velocity on batted balls well above league average, according to Baseball Savant.

Grichuk exit velo

Grichuk, a righty, actually hits righties (150 wRC+) better than lefties (143), and his .296 Iso against righties isn’t much better than his .261 Iso against lefties. Grichuk does have a couple holes in his bat – low and away against righties and low and in against lefties. But 11 of his extra-base hits against righties have come low and outside and seven of his extra-base hits off lefties and come low and inside. So even though he does have a couple spots where he’s vulnerable when he does make contact on those pitches he’s able to do it well.

Going back to exit velocity, you can see in the next image that while he does have some colder spots he still hits well from all areas of the plate.

Grichuk velo breakdown

Grichuk is definitely a pull hitter as 52 percent of balls in play have been classified as “pulled.” He also hits the ball very hard, as evidenced by the above images, and also by a hard-hit rate of 37 percent at Fangraphs. So I wanted to see who also pulls the ball as hard as he does. So from Fangraphs the players with at least 250 plate appearances and a pull percentage above 50 percent, in descending order:

Now when you sort them by hard-hit rate of at least 35 percent, to account for some room for error:

  • Davis
  • Grichuk
  • Teixeira

So this next link is with those three players only and you can click through to see how their stats compare, but I’ll highlight some. Obviously Teixeira and Davis are huge power hitters, so their home run totals are well above Grichuk’s 13. But Grichuk’s Iso is better than Davis’s, and so are his wOBA and wRC+. Both Teixeira and Davis have benefited from playing in parks that really help left-handed power, while Busch Stadium is a pitcher’s park against both sides of the plate. All three players have fly ball rates of 42 percent and very rarely go to the opposite field. Teixeira has increased his pulled fly-ball rate this year, and that’s a lot of the reason why he’s got 29 home runs.

Grichuk has benefited from a .384 BABIP this year, and as that comes down he will have to become more patient at the plate. Grichuk is a former first-round pick with good power numbers from the minors, and he’s backed that up in his first full season in the Majors. As we know the power is real at only 23 years old Grichuk is just one or two changes to his game away from becoming a household name.

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