Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AnalysisMLBNational LeagueNL WestSan Diego Padres

Trent Grisham Is For Real

Featured Photo: @Padres

“We saw it as a good baseball trade.”

That was what Padres GM A.J. Preller said on November 27, 2019 after acquiring Trent Grisham and Zach Davies in exchange for Luis Urias and Eric Lauer. Padres fans had a less utopian outlook on the trade, but ultimately it wasn’t expected to be a franchise-altering deal for either team. Preller was giving up a promising young middle infielder and a solid, if unspectacular, arm in exchange for a fifth starter and a young outfielder that they arguably didn’t need, whose most notable accomplishment to that point was making an error in right field that ended up costing his team the 2019 NL Wild Card game. At the time of the trade, it appeared that Grisham was viewed as more of a platoon option than an everyday starter. Preller referred to Grisham as a “complimentary” piece, emphasizing his ability to hit right-handed pitching. Since then, Grisham has done nothing but impress, and the Front Office clearly had at least some faith in his ability before the season ever began, dealing the glove-first center fielder Manuel Margot to the Rays in exchange for Emilio Pagan back in February, effectively making Grisham the everyday guy in center before ever putting on a Padres uniform. Two weeks into the 2020 season, it appears that Preller may have pulled a heist without even realizing it.

It’s far too early to be taking a victory lap about any player’s results (or lack thereof) in 2020, but it’s clear that the Padres have something special in Trent Grisham. We won’t focus on his current 162 wRC+ going into Saturday night’s game, which is utterly meaningless in such a small sample size. There are, however, some attributes that we can look at which hold water regardless of how large our sample is. And that’s what we’re going to focus on.

If you’ve got skills, you’ve got skills

Grisham’s four homeruns in his first 10 games in a Padres uniform are an impressive feat, but hot streaks and fluky homers happen all the time. Grisham has shown us that he has real pop in his bat, though. His maximum exit velocity after just 11 games played is 111.9 mph, which would’ve landed him at number 100 in baseball last year, nestled between Matt Olson (111.9 mph) and Freddie Freeman (112 mph). He’s already hit multiple homers this season of more than 430 ft., including this 457 ft. shot off of Yency Almonte:

Source: Baseball Savant

Grisham wasn’t a top prospect upon his arrival to the major leagues, but his plate discipline immediately caught my attention when looking into him after he was traded – posting a walk rate above 14% at every stop in the minors doesn’t happen by accident. Plate discipline is a skill that tends to translate reasonably well to the majors, and it’s held up thus far for Grisham to the tune of a 12% walk rate over his first 241 plate appearances (MLB average is around 8.5%).

Unlike most batting and fielding metrics, speed doesn’t need a large sample size to become reliable. There may be days where a player has a minor ailment slowing them down a bit, but ultimately you can either run fast or you can’t. Grisham’s average sprint speed in 2019 was 29.1 ft/s per Baseball Savant, good enough to put him in the top 7% of all runners. He’s been a touch below that so far this season, but still way above average. Grisham can fly, period. This, of course, helps him out on both offense and defense. In a previous study, I found that, on average, runners with a sprint speed of at least 29 ft/s outperform their xwOBA by about 12 points, and with Grisham’s plate discipline, he could easily become a guy who regularly lands near the top of OBP leaderboards. Defensively, he seems to have good instincts, and the limited defensive data we have available on him tends to agree with that: last year, Statcast tracked Grisham at 3.4 feet vs average and 5 Outs Above Average (OAA) in a small sample size. So far this season, Grisham is the only outfielder in baseball to record multiple five-star catches. There are some scouts who still have skepticism as to whether Grisham will be able to stick in center field, including Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, who said as much on episode 1575 of the Effectively Wild podcast (highly recommended). Even if Grisham ends up sliding into a corner outfield position, based on what we’ve seen so far it’s safe to assume to Grisham should be, at worst, a good defensive outfielder for the foreseeable future.

Before we get too excited and call Grisham the Padres’ center fielder of the future, let’s remember that Grisham has accumulated less than half of a full season’s worth of plate appearances, and we’ve seen many, many players start off well and end up failing. That said, while we obviously don’t know exactly what Trent Grisham is going to be, it’d be somewhat surprising if he were anything less than an above-average, everyday MLB starter. The floor seems to be pretty high, especially compared to his middling prospect status. Where exactly his ceiling lies is the interesting question, and that can only be answered by time.

Featured Photo: @Padres

Holden Phillips

Padres contributor and various sabermetric-related topics. Follow on twitter @HoldenPhillips7