Grichuk It All Up To Coincidence

Daniel Port covers all of Sunday's most interesting hitters.

Here we are on the last day of this crazy fantasy baseball season. Congratulations to all those who are closing out a championship today and my condolences to those who narrowly missed out. It’s time for evaluating our process and looking towards next year. It’s those who start now that will have a leg up on everyone in 2021, especially since no one is going to know what to do on draft day with the numbers from this season. In that spirit, today’s main batter’s box is going to be brief so I can deep dive on as many hitters as possible, all with 2021 in mind.

The first hitter I want to to talk about is Blue Jays hitter Randal Grichuk. For years he’s been a fringe guy who could help you in home runs and kill you in AVG and that was about it. We always thought he was capable of more, though, thanks to his yearly excellence in BBL% and Exit Velocity and he always ended up on breakout and sleeper lists year after year. After hitting his 12th home run on Saturday (which puts him on 36 HR regular season pace), Grichuk is hitting .278 and seems to be putting it all together like we always hoped he would but is it legit? It’s just 60 games and so while some statistics have started to reach their stabilization rates others haven’t even come close. Unfortunately, batting average is one of the latter. According to a post over on his personal site, our own Max Freeze stated that batting average doesn’t stabilize until we’ve passed 260 games of data, so depending on when you start the sample size it’s hard to know what to make of his full season numbers in that regard. It gets even more confusing when you consider he has had the tale of two seasons, even in this short sample.

I’m going to rattle off some numbers here and see if we can paint a picture of his season. Over the first half of the season Grichuk hit .287 with six home runs over 22 games. Over the final 32 games he hit another six home runs but only managed a .264 AVG. Through August 31st he had a 15.4 BBL%, but after that a mere 6.7 BBL%. He’s been an extreme pull hitter all year, but when he was hitting well he hit the ball to centerfield 30.8% of the time. When he has struggled that number has dropped to 17.3%. The biggest red flag I see, though, is in his plate discipline numbers. In the first half, he swung at pitches outside the zone just 33.7% of the time. In the second half? An abysmal 41.6%, which is well above his normal number for his career and he’s made contact with 71.9% of those pitches. At the same time, he’s still dropped his K% to right around 20% in both halves which is a huge improvement. It’s essentially all over the place and it’s hard to know which half is the real deal.

My best guess right now is that Grichuk is something of a streaky hitter who will go through stretches of excellence and mediocrity and somehow we managed to get one of each this year. Both halves are so drastically different from each other that it lends some credence to my thought process. If I had to make a prognostication I’m thinking he hits something like .250 or .260 with 30 HRs and is one of those types of hitters that wins you weeks and loses you a few as well. As of right now, I’m leaning towards looking at him as a top 200 player and drafting him at like round 16 or 17 in 12 team roto leagues, while in points I’m dropping him back a few rounds thanks to a lack of walks.

Let’s take a look at how the other hitters fared on Sunday:

Robbie Grossman (OF, OAK) – 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI – After hitting his seventh and eighth home runs on Saturday, Robbie Grossman has nearly matched his career high of 11 in one third of the at bats. Much of that power can be attributed to a shift of an extreme pull heavy approach and an increased aggression in attack balls in the zone. Add in eight stolen bases and you see the potential for a 20/15 season with a .240 AVG out of Grossman next year if he still ends up with the same role next year. I’m not drafting him yet, but in deeper leagues or 15 teamers he could be a player to keep an eye on.
Andrew McCutchen (POS, PHI) – 4-5, HR, 2B, 3 R, RBI – “Cutch, I thought you were dead”, “Yeah, you and everybody else.” Andrew McCutchen looked cooked at the beginning of the season coming off a knee injury that ended his 2019 season. From August first onward though, he showed that he still had a ton left in the tank. After hitting his tenth home run on Saturday he has shown a new and improved flyball approach with a 5.2 degree increase in his launch angle, and when you compare his launch angle chart from Baseball Savant from this year to last season you’ll see why I’m encouraged about next year for Cutch. Here’s his 2019 chart:
and now this year:
The results are clear. He’s hitting the ball on the ground way less often and is getting his hits from exactly where we want it. If this carries over to next year I wouldn’t be shocked to see him come close to 30 HRs, while batting leadoff again for the Phillies with Harper, Realmuto, Bohm, Segura and Gregorious all hitting after him. As of right now, I’ll probably start looking at Cutch somewhere around pick 150 next season, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I keep bumping up sooner as we get closer and closer to next season.
Luis Arraez (POS, MIN) – 4-4, 3 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI – Arraez picked up this season right where he left off last year hitting for a high average and no power whatsoever. I had high hopes for Arraez counting numbers in the potent Twins offense after he put up 54 runs in essentially half a season last year, but knee tendinitis has haunted him since summer camp and limited his playing time, which unfortunately hampered his run scoring potential. He’s never going to be a game-changing fantasy player, but I think what we thought about Arraez before the season still holds true for 2021. If you miss out on 2B or want a steady but unspectacular bench bat that plays a few positions, Arraez is worth a pick at the very end of drafts for average and runs no matter where he hits in that fantastic lineup.
Ke’Bryan Hayes (POS, PIT) – 5-5, 3 2B, 3 R – At just under 100 plate appearances, Ke’Bryan Hayes is having one heck of start to his career. After going 5 for 5 on Saturday with three doubles he’s hitting .370 on the year with four home runs, seven doubles and a .284 ISO. Obviously the average isn’t fully sustainable, and the power is surprising with scouts saying last year that Hayes needed a swing change as he hit the ball hard but straight into the ground in the minors. While a 6.6 degree launch angle and a 48.4 GB% isn’t quite what they meant, he’s showing some promise when he does hit it in the air and that’s a good start. Hayes might sneak under the radar next year at a stacked third base position, and if another offseason and spring training with the big league club can lead to more improvement, then he could be a sneaky good grab at the end of drafts.
Pete Alonso (POS, NYM) – 3-5, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB – A lot of smart baseball people warned us that Alonso’s AVG was due for a reality check and man do they look smart now. I don’t think this is necessarily the new norm for Alonso either, though, as his Statcast numbers all look pretty similar to last year, and we know batting average can take forever to become reliable. I want to dive deeper into it this offseason, but I kinda see Alonso as a Khris Davis 2.0 type. He’ll hit 40 plus homers with something around a .240 to .250 average and surprise everyone by how high he ends up in the rankings at the end of the year. With this in mind, I’ll probably be taking the same approach I used to with Davis. If he’s there around the 5th or 6th round I’ll gladly snatch him up.
DJ LeMahieu (POS, NYY) – 4-5, 2 2B, R, 3 RBI – I was all about DJ coming into the season and expected him to replicate his 2019 season, but I couldn’t have predicted he would be making an argument for AL MVP by years end. So long as there is a short porch out there in right field in Yankee Stadium I’m going to be buying every share I can get my hands on. We were taking him in the 5th last year, and I wouldn’t change my tune at all heading into 2021.
Kris Bryant (POS, CHC) – 2-4, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI – While the Cubs have been pretty good, Kris Bryant has been pretty awful all season so it’s nice to see him get this grand slam and end the regular season on a high note. Perhaps most troubling is the massive drop in his BB% and his rapidly climbing K%. The good news is that his plate discipline numbers are pretty consistent with previous seasons, so I’m tempted to just chalk it up to short season weirdness. I mean, he hit 31 home runs last year, but I’ll definitely be watching him closely in Spring Training next year, and if I don’t like what I’m seeing I might have to bump him down a few rounds.
Colin Moran (POS, PIT) – 2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI – Moran has been pulling the ball more than ever this season, and the results are showing as he hit his 10th home run yesterday and he’s doubled his BBL% to a fantastic 13.6% along with a 92 MPH Exit Velocity. All that being said, I think I’m still out for 2021. He can hit the ball hard all he wants, but based on his 55.6 GB% and lowly 8.6 degree launch angle all he’s doing is hitting it really hard straight into the ground. Until I start seeing that change, I’m going to be skeptical he actually develops into a 25 plus homer kinda guy with any consistency.
Adalberto Mondesi (POS, KC) – 2-3, HR, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB – Stealing 24 bases in just 58 games is unreal. That would be a 72 stolen base pace in a full season. All that being said his approach still stinks, and I think we might be past hoping for some sort of a rebound from last season. An incredibly fast .240 hitter with some power might just be who he is, and that’s before you factor in that he’s suffered some sort of a major injury every year of his career so far. It’s not the type of player I typically draft, but I totally get the argument that he’s essentially a 40 HR hitter just in a different category. I don’t think I’ll have any shares, but I wouldn’t look at him before the 7th or 8th round at the earliest if I did.
Yoan Moncada (POS, CWS) – 2-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB – It is not fun watching Moncada regress. Despite his .406 BABIP in 2019 I hoped that at least a decent chunk of the production last year was real. Unfortunately, his profile this year looks exactly his 2018 and 2017 numbers, and I find myself worried that’s who he is. I’m not totally out as he’s still really young and has gobs of talent, but I’m going to be cautious next year and certainly won’t be taking him the top 100.
Kyle Seager (POS, SEA) – 1-4, HR, 3 R, RBI, BB – The Kyle Seager comeback train continues! Not only is he hitting for power with his 9th home run yesterday, but he’s walking at a fantastic 13.1 BB% pace and avoiding strikeouts at a nearly identical rate. He’s become an even more patient hitter at the plate, while working more to all fields. It’s hard not to be impressed. I think there’s better choices to take a shot at near the end of drafts, but depending on how the Mariners continue to build their team, I think he could still be a really great pick at the end of drafts in 2021.
Will Smith (POS, LAD) – 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB – This is going to be the #1 catcher target next season especially in points leagues. He’s walked as often as he’s struck out and with his 9th home run on Saturday is hitting .300 with plenty of power in a stacked Dodgers lineup. In 36 games, he’s been a 171 wRC+ hitter, and when you combine a 24.0 degree launch angle with a 90.6 MPH Exit Velocity and a 13.2 BBL% you’re going to find a ton of success. I mean, look at this launch angle chart:
Hang that thing up in Louvre next to the Mona Lisa it looks so good. We were taking Gary Sanchez in the top 125 in a lot of drafts last year and I’m honestly going to be hardpressed not to do that again this year with Smith.
(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Daniel Port

Daniel is a Fantasy Baseball writer, Brewer, and Theatrical Technician, located in Denver, Colorado. A lifelong fan of baseball and the Cleveland Indians since before Albert Belle tried to murder Fernando Vina, he used to tell his Mom he loved her using Sammy Sosa's home run salute, has a perfectly reasonable amount of love for Joey Votto and believes everything in life should be announced using bat flips. If you want to talk baseball, beer, or really anything at all you can find him on twitter at @DanielJPort !

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