Blue Jays: The missing piece of the puzzle for Randal Grichuk?

DUNEDIN, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 27: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays at bat during the spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at TD Ballpark on February 27, 2020 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 27: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays at bat during the spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at TD Ballpark on February 27, 2020 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays have Dante Bichette in camp as an additional hitting instructor this spring, and he’s high on Randal Grichuk’s potential after working with him. He also mentioned one missing piece of the puzzle.

Spring Training can be a crucial part of the calendar for MLB players, whether they’re youngsters looking to prove themselves, or veterans preparing for another long season. For Randal Grichuk, this month is all about being truly ready for the start of the 2020 campaign, and hopefully picking up where he left off last year.

The 28-year-old had mixed results last season, but also posted several career highs, including 31 home runs, his first time breaking the 30 mark, and 80 RBI. However, in other ways it was a bit of a disappointment, as he slashed just .232/.280/.457 and struck out a career-high 163 times. Granted, he also played in 151 games, his highest single season total, but there are still obvious facets of his game that he needs to improve.

To help him with that, the Blue Jays have all kinds of resources at his disposal in Florida this year, including the father of their starting shortstop, former MLB All-Star Dante Bichette. The now 56-year-old knows a thing or two about hitting, as he was a 4x All-Star, a Silver Slugger award winner, and also received MVP votes in four different seasons, including a 2nd place finish in 1995 when he slashed .340/.364/.620 with 40 home runs and 128 RBI. The man was a dangerous hitter, and he knows a thing or two about the craft.

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And the good news when it comes to Grichuk is that the former Colorado Rockie great sees a lot of great things in the Blue Jays centre fielder, and thinks there is plenty of room to grow. He even went as far as saying, “this guy does everything well” in a recent interview with Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun.

Bichette is correct that Grichuk looks great on paper, as he’s shown the ability to add value on defence, hit for power, and even add some decent speed on the base paths. What has eluded him throughout his career is the type of consistency he needs to thrive at the highest level, and that’s exactly the type of thing that Bichette is hoping to work with him on, hopefully unlocking a player that could prove to be elite.

"“He’s a good defender, he’s got the power. The last little thing is to be more consistent with two strikes. Consistency is the thing that comes eventually with these guys. He’s been so good and so powerful his whole life, he’s really never had to go there. He’s very willing to go there now. Some of his (struggles) were absolutely in his head. And now he’s learning.”"

It sounds like the main focus of Bichette’s work with Grichuk is on the mental side of the game, which will help him to get through a prolonged stretch of battling at the plate. Over the course of a 162 schedule it’s going to happen to pretty much everyone, but minimizing cold streaks and keeping a hot streak going longer can make the different between a good, and a great hitter.

That much is more or less a given and could even be considered common sense to a degree, but it was the next part of what Bichette said that really stuck out to me.

"“It’s that grind in between survival mode, getting that tough hit off a tough pitcher, that’s going to take him from a .230 hitter to a .275 hitter. And once he gets up around there, he’s going to believe he can go higher.”"

Ultimately, that’s exactly the kind of leap the Blue Jays are hoping for from Grichuk this year, and even what they had be looking for in 2019. He showed he can be that type of hitter in the second half of the 2018 season by slashing .280/.326/.579 across 242 plate appearances, and that was a big reason for his landing a five year extension that off-season.

After struggling by comparison in 2019, the Blue Jays and Bichette are hoping they can unlock the type of consistency in Grichuk that would help him return to those second-half 2018 numbers, or maybe even exceed them. He doesn’t have to be a .300 hitter in order to bring value to the table, especially with the rest of his skill set, but if he can work through those unavoidable cold stretches a little more quickly and stay focused on his goals on the mental side of the game, there is still more potential in the Texas native than we’ve seen so far.

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Bichette certainly sees it in him, and hopefully with a defined position and a healthy body headed in to a fresh season, he can show the rest of baseball what he’s fully capable of.