After a horrendous start to his tenure as a Blue Jay, Randal Grichuk has proven why he was brought in to be a full-time starter in Toronto.
Not every MLB player that changes uniforms has a storybook start with their new team. For every Mike Hauschild story, there are dozens more that are quickly forgotten for their futility. It’s easier to remember the good stuff than the bad in most cases, which is good for the fans and the players alike.
In Toronto, we’re finally starting to see some of the Blue Jays distance themselves from their horrific starts to the 2018 season. For example, Kendrys Morales was frequently mentioned as a DFA candidate earlier in the season, and as of this writing he has the highest batting average of anyone on the active roster. I’m not saying he’s having an amazing season, but he’s definitely turned things around since hitting .160/.259/.240 in March/April.
Morales wasn’t alone in his struggles earlier in the year either, and he’s had a partner in redemption in many ways. It’s been easy to dismiss with the team’s place in the standings, but Randal Grichuk is quietly having a pretty nice season, even if his overall numbers don’t totally reflect how much of an asset he’s been in Toronto. After hitting just .106/.208/.227 in his first 25 games as a Blue Jay, Grichuk went down with an injury that kept him out until June. It was the re-set he needed, and he’s been a different player since.
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He slashed .294/.341/.647 in June, adding eight home runs and 20 RBI in 80 at bats, and contributing rock solid defence in right field. He cooled off a bit in July, but he also showed off his defensive chops in centre field while Kevin Pillar was on the disabled list, and he’s anything but a slouch there. And then he’s started off August on a tear, going 7-15 through three games, including his four hit performance on Friday night. Overall he’s hitting .274 (52-190) since his return from the DL in June, and has been the kind of thing that’s even had him in the leadoff spot lately.
Even with the remarkably poor start to the season, Grichuk still has been worth 0.9 WAR this season, according to both Fangraphs and Baseballreference.com. His numbers aren’t elite by any means, but in a rebuilding Blue Jays’ lineup, I think he’s shown more than enough to be a part of the immediate future at the very least. That said, there’s a good chance he could be a big part of it, and a veteran that’s counted on to lead a clubhouse full of young talent.
The former St. Louis Cardinal will turn 28 in another 10 days, and he still has two years of arbitration control remaining before becoming a free agent after the 2020 season. He’s also making just 2.8 million this season, and should be a more than affordable piece for the Jays over the next two seasons. He’ll get a salary increase to be sure, but it won’t be anything close to out of reach of the team.
He also profiles as a great fit for this impending rebuild, as he’s young, motivated, energetic, and seemingly positive around the field, his teammates, and the fans. It looks like he has no problem getting along with the others in the clubhouse, and he also understands the value of the opportunity he’s got in Toronto on a personal level, especially after being a part-time player in St. Louis. Some veterans may have a tough time finding motivation through a difficult season like what the Blue Jays have went through, but Grichuk is still trying to prove that he not only belongs, but that he’s still got star potential.
Maybe he’s the next Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion to make a late-twenties transition into stardom in Toronto (more on that tomorrow), or maybe he’s just a solid player filling out the lineup card right now. Either way, he’s not the liability we saw in the first month of the season, and by now I hope pretty much all Blue Jays fans can see that.