Dynasty Inspection: Robbie Grossman

Robbie Grossman started hitting the ball harder in 2020.

In my previous Dynasty Inspections, I took a look at Tommy Edman, Willy Adames and Ramon Laureano. All three of those players are in their mid-20s and coming off down 2020 seasons, following some hype. Robbie Grossman doesn’t exactly fit the mold.

Grossman is entering his age-31 season and he’s only hit more than 10 home runs once in a single season. His current NFBC ADP is 358 and he’s the 96th outfielder coming off the board. That puts him in company with guys like Franchy Cordero, Cristian Pache, Kevin Pillar and Hunter RenfroeThat group is a collective shrug for the upcoming season. So why take a look at Grossman? Well, in the 2020 he hit the ball harder than he ever had before and it’s worth checking to see if the veteran outfielder is being slept on heading into 2021.


The Player


Normally in this section I’d give a background on the player’s performance and hype coming up through the minors but Grossman had his MLB debut in 2013, so his minor league career almost feels irrelevant at this point. A quick summary: Grossman was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. Over his 758 game minor league career he hit 49 home runs, swiped 131 bags and had a .271 career batting average. He drew a lot of walks but never hit for much power. Houston acquired Grossman in the Wandy Rodriguez deal in 2012 and he made his MLB debut for the Astros in 2013. From there, he bounced between the majors and Triple-A before eventually finding a more stable big league role in Minnesota.

As a major leaguer, Grossman has been a better real life player than fantasy asset. The plate discipline skills that he showcased in the minors carried over to majors and make him a reliable bat. For his career, Grossman has a 12.6% walk rate, .350 OBP and 104 wRC+. But the lack of power (just 50 home runs in 726 games) and middling speed (37 career steals) has kept him off of fantasy lineups for most of his career.

But then in the 2020 shortened season Grossman’s stats perked up and it feels like it widely went unnoticed. In 51 games with Oakland, the switch-hitter hit eight home runs and stole eight bases. The average came in at a paltry .240, but Grossman was finally starting to show some power and his stolen base total tied him for 12th in all of baseball with big names like Ronald Acuna Jr, Bryce Harper and Xander Bogaerts.

Let’s take a deeper look into his data from 2020.


Career v. 2020


We’ll start by taking a look at the difference in surface stats over the last few years.

Stat 2018 (129 games) 2019 (119 games) 2020 (51 games)
AVG .273 .240 .241
OBP .367 .334 .344
SLG .384 .348 .482
ISO .111 .107 .241
HR 5 6 8
SB 0 9 8

A few things pop out here. Most notable among them is the power jump. Due to the shortened season, Grossman only played in 51 games in 2020 but still managed to hit more home runs than he did in either 2018 or 2019. His slugging climbed by 100+ points too, but his batting average is sitting much lower than we saw in 2018. The steals are noteworthy too – 2018 marks his last season with the Twins and 2019 his first with Oakland. It appears his stolen base attempts were more of an organizational decision than a player one. Grossman signed with the Detroit Tigers this offseason, so it’s a bit unknown at this time how often he will attempt to swipe bags. For now, let’s take note of the power improvement and see if it’s potentially legitimate or just noise.

Stat 2018 2019 2020
Exit Velocity 87.1 87.7 89
LD/FB EV 89.7 90 92
Hard Hit Rate 28.4 31 37.5
xSLG .344 .378 .397

Grossman told the San Francisco Chronicle that he spent the offseason prior to the 2020 season focusing on changing his swing to make it geared toward making hard contact. And there is no doubt about it – Grossman is hitting the ball harder and for more power. His average EV, average line drive/fly ball EV, hard hit rate and xSLG have all steadily climbed the last three years. The numbers aren’t elite by any means, but they are a huge step up from where Grossman has been throughout his career. Many players saw dips in their EV in 2020, so it feels notable that Grossman experienced a jump. The fact that Grossman hitting the ball harder is part of a conscious adjustment makes it feel more likely to stick in 2021.

On the flip side, Grossman’s xSLG was significantly lower than his actually slugging, so this type of power is probably a bit of a mirage. His average home run distance (379 feet) also ranked 133rd of 142 qualified hitters so, yeah, he probably did get a little lucky in his home run total. But what is also interesting is that, excluding a 24-game campaign in 2015, Grossman set a career-low BABIP (.267) despite hitting the ball harder than ever. While it’s not always the case, typically players with higher EVs and some speed will also have higher BAPIPs. Let’s look further.

Stat 2018 2019 2020
Pull % 33.8 29.2 46.1
GB % 39.1 40.2 39.8
LD % 26.3 29.5 28.1
FB % 26.6 24.1 24.2
Whiff % 16.3 15.4 18.4
Swing % 39.3 38.4 43.4
K % 17.8 17.8 19.8
BB % 12.9 12.2 10.9

Obviously, Grossman pulled the ball a lot more in 2020. This makes sense if he’s trying to hit the ball harder and generate more power. This probably helped him sneak out a few extra home runs to right field. The increase in Whiff rate further points to the attempt to hit with more thump. The results show that this approach did improve his power output even though his groundball, line drive and flyball rates remained about the same. It’s possible that Grossman’s BABIP drop was a combination of pulling grounders into the defense more often and a few of his best hit balls now leaving the park, but I’d be willing to bet on his BABIP improving in 2021 given the increase in EV, though we might see some regression in his home runs. He was also much more aggressive in his approach in 2020, which caused his strikeout rate to increase and his walk rate to decrease. These rates are still above average but it’s something to monitor going forward.




Despite being a switch-hitter Grossman was used primarily as a strong-side platoon bat during his two years in Oakland. In 2020, he only logged 24 plate appearances from the right side of the plate. He struggled as a righty, only registering two hits on the year. If you wipe away Grossman’s plate appearances as a right-handed hitter his 2020 surface stats look even better: .260 batting average, .521 SLG and a 140 wRC+.

We of course can’t just simply look at the good and ignore the bad here, but there are some reasons to be optimistic about Grossman’s performance as a righty moving forward. His 2020 right-handed hitter sample is incredibly small and a look at his career numbers show that he’s actually been a more productive hitter from that side of the plate.

Career LHB RHB
Plate Appearances 1,734 628
Batting Average .246 .271
SLG .376 .390
wRC+ 101 110

Naturally his sample as a right-handed batter is much smaller, but the numbers don’t lie here – over his career Grossman has been better as righty than a lefty. His production from this side of the plate did dip dramatically during his two years in Oakland, but due to the team’s lineup depth, he was seeing irregular at-bats. In the previously-mentioned San Francisco Chronicle article, Grossman stated that he believes he is a better hitter as righty and that when he made his swing adjustments last offseason he put all of his focus on his left-handed swing. A more regular offseason where he also focuses on his right-handed approach could bring him back to his career numbers from that side of the dish.

Unlike the Athletics, the Tigers’ outfield does not have a ton of right-handed hitting outfield options that will strip the switch-hitter of plate appearances. In fact, the other outfielder Detroit signed this offseason was Nomar Mazara, who has been a left-handed platoon bat for the last several years. Grossman was signed by Detroit to be an everyday player and should be seeing regular at-bats from both sides of the plate in 2021.




Grossman made a swing adjustment in 2020 and hit the ball harder than he ever had before. As a result, he saw career-highs in his power output. In his two years in Oakland, he also began running more, swiping 17 bags in 21 attempts. If Grossman kept this pace for an entire season, he would have finished with a 25-homer, 25-steal campaign.

His surface stats were better than his expected stats, so some regression should be in play, especially with a “deadened” ball entering the picture. But Grossman’s overall numbers were also dragged down by a poor performance from the right-side of the plate and history shows that he has actually been more successful as a righty bat, so some positive regression on that end should be expected.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is Grossman’s offseason landing spot. The Tigers didn’t sign the veteran switch-hitter to be a platoon bat and he should be an everyday player. This spring he has been hitting out of the leadoff spot against both lefties and righties and it seems to be his likely place in the order come Opening Day.  The regular spot atop the lineup alone should give Grossman ample opportunities to add to his counting stats.

Overall, it’s possible that Grossman’s power regresses to more of a 15-homer pace or he attempts to steal less frequently in Detroit, but he still feels like great value given his current ADP. In 2019, only nine players finished with a 20-20 season. In redraft leagues, Grossman is offering that potential at pick 358. He’s currently being selected in a grouping of players that are in part-time roles while he’s a likely everyday player hitting atop a lineup (albeit not a great one). His average won’t help, probably settling in somewhere in the .245-.255 range, but it won’t kill you either. His ability to draw walks not only gives him a boost in OBP leagues but should also give him plenty of opportunities to steal bases and score runs.

At age-31, Grossman is far from a building block in dynasty leagues. But he did sign a two-year deal with Detroit and most of their notable outfield prospects are two-plus years away from breaking into the majors. In other words, Grossman could have a two-year window here where he slates in toward the top of the Tigers lineup and compiles stats. His asking price is practically nothing and he might even be unowned in some 10 or 12 team leagues. He should be someone that competing teams look to add before the season starts to strengthen their outfield depth. His role and plate discipline offer a solid floor and if the power gains stick even somewhat, he now has a higher ceiling than he has been able to offer in year’s past.


Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)

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