The Trent Grisham era has arrived! The Milwaukee Brewers confessed that their 6th-best (according to MLB Pipeline) is headed to the majors before Tuesday’s game in Oakland.
Grisham was given up on by many fans and evaluators heading into the season. The lefty/lefty outfielder was touted as one of the best hitters in the 2015 draft when the Brewers picked him 15th overall. Then, he never hit higher than .233 or a .708 OPS in full-season pro ball. The man was still young, but hope was failing.
To start the season, Grisham had a repeat with the Biloxi Shuckers. April was an improvement, but was so-so in the grand scheme of things, then he took off. From May to his AAA promotion, Grisham hit .286/.419/.602 with nine homers and a 17:31 K:BB rate. Not to mention he was likely having bad luck with a .266 BABIP. And once he got to AAA, Grisham hit the jets.
In 34 games (or 158 plate appearances), Grisham hit .381/.471/.776 with the San Antonio Missions. On top of that, he hit 13 homers to double his 2019 minor league total, he had never hit more than seven in a season. In fact, he came into the season with 19 career homers and has 26 in the minors this year. Finally, he walked one more time than he struck out.
A Cycle with a bonus Home Run!? Trent Grisham led the Missions to victory in style tonight! pic.twitter.com/bouAL6U2yx— San Antonio Missions Baseball Club (@missionsmilb) July 31, 2019
So, who is Trent Grisham? Is this talent explosion real? Let’s get into the man, myth and prospect!
Trent Grisham’s strong suit is his offense, but there’s one thing that stands out WAY more than the rest: his eye. Over the last few seasons, Grisham has improved his strikeout rate consistently. In his first full pro season at 19, it sat at 26%, which is less than ideal. Last year? Went down to 21.5%. At Biloxi this year, it was 17.7% and 13.9% with the Missions. Fangraphs defines “Great” as anything below 16%.
But Grisham has also always been amazing at taking walks. In any pro season, Grisham’s BB% has never dipped below 14%. He’s even only had two stints with minor league teams where his walk rate below 15%, and one was during the 34 games at San Antonio. That’s elite-level walking.
His plate discipline sets him up for major success when he makes contact. The issue was before, he was swinging at the wrong pitches. That means low line drive rates and lots of ground balls. That kind of peaked for Grisham last year with Biloxi. He was hitting just 13% of his balls for line drives and 40.9% of the balls were taking a nose dive straight into the dirt.
Craig Counsell breaks down the changes in Trent Grisham’s approach at the plate that led to his major-league callup: pic.twitter.com/RLuKpMzX1N— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) August 1, 2019
Swinging at better pitches and taking a more aggressive approach is helping the results this season. He’s hitting 21% of his balls for line drives, but the biggest difference is in ground balls. Just 33% of his balls in play are on the ground, 5% lower than that rate has ever been in his career. More are going into the air, where 45% of his balls are fly balls.
When the ball gets juiced and you attack strikes, great things happen. A more aggressive attitude at the plate has been what’s been helping Grisham. He’s just simply getting better swings and getting the ball out of the infield.
So, we know he has power now and can get on base, what else can he do? Well, he has the speed to steal; however, he doesn’t use that much. His most prolific seasons on the bags was 2017 in Carolina when he stole 37 in 42 attempts. Last year, that number dove to 11 of 14 attempts. This year, 12 total in 17 attempts. If he needs to, he can definitely steal 20+ in a season, and I think 20 will be the average early on. He’s slowed down a bit though because he’s built up muscle, so I highly doubt 40 steals is ever in the cards.
Grisham is not a defensive expert. He’s also not a defensive liability. But he’s certainly limited to center and left, preferably left.
The speed is his biggest asset in the field. He reads the ball ok off the bat, but his speed helps him catch up to balls that sail away on him or he misreads initially. Unfortunately, those skills don’t make up for his arm, which is below average.
I know below average outfield arms is a trigger for us Brewers farms, but I assure you that this is not Khris Davis-level weak arm. It’s just below average in terms of power from the outfield.
Thankfully, he’s still measured as being a benefit in the field. According to Baseball Prospectus Grisham had 4 Fielding Runs Above Average in Biloxi and 3.6 in San Antonio. Positive is good, and he’s only had one negative year of full-season pro baseball, which is also good.
Overall, Grisham has always had the tools to be something incredibly special, but it appears that they have finally clicked. The man should be able to take time in left field and genuinely help the team succeed with his offense and, to a lesser extent, his defense. If nothing else, we know he’ll get on base.
Statistics courtesy Fangraphs and Baseball Reference