The Blue Jays have long believed that Randal Grichuk could become a more consistent contributor, and he’s rewarding them for that patience with his performance so far in 2021.
The 29-year-old is now slashing .286/.317/.490 with nine home runs, 38 RBI, and 12 doubles across 192 at-bats. Those 38 RBI have been an important ingredient in the Blue Jays’ success so far this year, and he sits 7th in all of baseball in that category as we’re roughly a third of the way through the schedule. He’s also been a crucially steady presence in the outfield, which has been all that much more important in the absence of George Springer for all but four games thus far.
The most important part of Grichuk’s contribution is that he’s found some consistency at the plate, which is something that has eluded him for most of his career. Other than the 0-13 stretch that spanned May 9-13, Grichuk hasn’t gone more than two games without a hit all season. He’s been “on” more than he’s struggled, and as a result he’s become one of the more important players on the roster.
At the beginning of the season there was no guarantee that Grichuk would receive every-day playing time, and he acknowledged as much in several early season interviews. However, Springer’s absence not only opened the door to regular playing time throughout April and May, it was also an opportunity for Grichuk to prove that Charlie Montoyo still needs to find a spot for him on the lineup card on a regular basis even when everyone is healthy.
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One of the biggest reasons that Grichuk has found more consistency at the plate is that he’s been able to improve his contact rate, and really cut down on strikeouts. During the last full season in 2019, Grichuk struck out 163 times over 151 games. This year he’s only been fanned 37 times over his first 50 games.
The most significant difference in Grichuk’s approach in 2021 has been a common thing among Blue Jays hitters, and that’s an ability to hit the ball to the opposite field rather than trying to pull everything. We’ve watched similar approaches from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and more, and it’s a strategy that’s been working well for the 26-24 Jays. No doubt the league will make adjustments to them as the year goes on, but Grichuk’s ability to hit the ball the other way has made a big impact on his results.
Throughout his big league career the eight-year veteran has always felt like a player with some unlocked potential. There still may be another rung to Grichuk’s success, but what we’re seeing this year feels more like the player the Blue Jays hoped he could be when they handed him a five-year extension. So far he’s managed to put up a pretty consistent performance, and if that continues then Montoyo will always find a spot for him in the lineup one way or another.