Trent Grisham Has Superstar Potential

The juice, the speed, the swag. This kid's an electric factory.

Stats as of 8/11/20

Something is going on in San Diego. They have a stud in Fernando Tatis Jr., a rotation headlined by Chris Paddack and now supported by the likes of Dinelson Lamet, and they’ve reinvented established big leaguers Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. But they have another dude that isn’t getting nearly as much attention as he should. In fact, most probably just know him as the guy who made that error in last year’s NL Wild Card Game. But Trent Grisham, the former Milwaukee Brewer, is something special. His 2019 prospect report may not say so, but what we’ve seen at the Major League level this season begs to differ.

Using Statcast’s xwOBA, here’s a list of hitters age 23 or younger who have an xwOBA over .400 (min 50 PA):

  • Grisham (.425)
  • Tatis (.426)

That’s it. That’s the list. Tatis is already an acclaimed superstar because of his skill, flare, and young age, but I’m here to convince you that Grisham is too, or at least has the potential to be one. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that Grisham has more all-around potential than Tatis. Of course that’s bold, and it’s still super early in Grisham’s career — we don’t have a strong and stable sample size of results quite yet. But, let’s go down that road and make the case that he can be a superstar.

 

The Bat

 

In 2019, Grisham only played in 51 games with the Brew Crew, registering 183 PA and producing a 92 wRC+. In just 17 games this season, he’s already produced the same number of fWAR. Grisham can do a bit of it all. He walks, hits with thump in his bat, and he’s wicked fast. This style of offense is seeing him put up a 150 wRC+ thus far, and although his batting average is a lackluster .231, an 18.9% walk rate and four home runs give him a .384 OBP and .508 SLG. Statcast is having a blast with Grisham so far, grading him well in almost every percentile ranking.

 

 

Off the bat, we can see Grisham is excelling the most offensively in Exit Velocity, maxing it out at 111.9 MPH, and hitting the ball the hardest on average within the top 30 of the league. Now, while this doesn’t mean much, since an average is also averaging in the soft hit balls (bad!), his max tells us that Grisham has some serious strength. In fact, he ranks right above a few hitters known for their ability to hit the ball hard when we look at their respective maxes.

 

Max Exit Velocity (MPH)
Trent Grisham 111.9
Aaron Judge 111.1
Mike Trout 109.7

 

A closer look at this one specific batted ball from Grisham shows that it was hit at a -18 degree launch angle.

 

 

This basically gives us two takeaways. First, Grisham needs a consistently good launch angle to get the most out of his power. That’s fairly obvious, since most know by now that it doesn’t matter how hard you can hit a ball into the dirt, ground balls are outs. But on the other hand, this tells us that Grisham can completely mishit a ball and still smoke it, which further leads me to believe his raw strength is legitimate, and he has the ability to be far better than the 30-grade game power his prospect profile gave him. To further go into this concept of mishitting baseballs for a second, let’s take a look at an idea presented in a post by Tom Tango. I encourage you to read it on your own time, but I’ll summarize ONE of the conclusions briefly for you. Tango looks at the actual and predicted wOBA for batted balls based on their EV and LA. A strongly hit ball (95 mph+) has the best actual results when hit at 28 degrees and the worst when hit at 52 degrees. However, a strongly hit ball has the best predicted wOBA when hit at 52 degrees. Why would this be? Tango further explains the idea saying, “Because it takes an immense amount of power to mishit a ball at such a horrible angle that you can STILL launch the ball off the bat at 100 mph”. Now, Grisham didn’t hit his ball at that extreme of a launch angle and he isn’t Joey Gallo strong. But if he can essentially hit a ball straight into the ground at nearly 112 MPH, it further proves that he has the potential to crush baseballs.

The reason I wanted to look at Grisham through that lens is because, so far, he is only a bit better than league average by hard hit rate (HH%). Although HH%, the rate a hitter hits a ball over 95 MPH, is more important than a batter’s average EV, I don’t think this is a poor sign for Grisham. Even with an average HH%, Grisham can still be a star. But, I’m more curious in what we could see from him in the future. Is the consistency of his strength truly middle of the pack or can his HH% improve? I believe in the latter. Barrel rate puts Grisham in the 88th percentile, whiff rate places him in the 57th percentile, and he’s improved his plate discipline since last season. Consistent barrels would inherently lead to an increased HH%, but a moderately low whiff rate and staying within the strike zone would also play a role. So, it would make sense for Grisham to see an improvement to his hard hit rate over time and looking at this rolling line chart, that’s exactly what we see.

 

 

Lastly, I want to note that his .237 batting average can also stand to improve. Grisham may never be a .300 hitter, and you shouldn’t really care since it isn’t necessary to be a star (or even a good hitter in general), but he’s underperformed his xBA by .040 —  a significant amount. All things considered, Grisham has already been great. But if peripherals say there’s room for future improvement, he could be a massive offensive threat in due time.

 

The Glove

 

Grisham is without a doubt a plus defender. It’s arguably his biggest asset and most important role in being a center fielder. He sits in the 96th percentile in Outs Above Average, and is the only outfielder this season to have made more than one 5-star catch. In fact, he’s one of just 10 outfielders to have even made a 5-star catch. To aid in his tremendous defense, Grisham has an outfield jump in the 90th percentile and sprint speed in the 91st percentile. Grisham has the talent to chase down balls in the gap with ease, and cover tons of ground with great route efficiency. Take a look at the range he showed off in 2019.

 

 

And watch how easy he tracks down balls to the warning track.

 

 

My man is flying and looks like he’s barely breaking a sweat. Grisham has the potential to not just be a great outfielder, but the best center fielder in the league.

 

The Swag

 

Everyone knows that to be a superstar you have to have a bit of style. And you can check that box off for the lefty who refuses to wear batting gloves.

 

 

Grisham brings, power, speed, defense, and flare, with the potential to put up some serious WAR in a full season. The Padres have Tatis, but they also have Grisham. A 23-year-old with a knack for barrels, 5-star catches, and putting on a show. Keep your eye on him, he might just be a superstar.

 

(Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire)

Kyle Horton

Kyle is a former Division 1 baseball player and Cincinnati Reds fan. Please follow him on Twitter @Hortonimo, he already told his mom that you did.

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