He might not be bringing a lot to the table with his bat for the Blue Jays lately, but Randal Grichuk still needs to be starting in centre field every day down the stretch. Or at least if/until George Springer is able to play on both sides of the ball again.
That might sound like a weird thing to say when you consider that Grichuk has had a very difficult second half of the season with the bat. Over his last 30 games the 30 year old is hitting just .167/.253/.298 after entering the All-Star break hitting .259 with 16 home runs and 57 RBI. As a result, he’s slowly but surely started to lose playing time to the growing group of Blue Jays outfielders.
I can understand why Charlie Montoyo might want a little more offence from the position, but over the last few days Grichuk has reinforced why he still needs to start every day. Quite simply, they need his defence up the middle.
On Sunday he made arguably the best catch of his career with the Blue Jays, diving for a ball in the left centre gap and taking away extra bases from Starling Marte in the first inning.
We’ll never know how that ball dropping in might have changed the game, but it was an early positive in the momentum department for the Blue Jays, and it helped Robbie Ray throw a scoreless first inning. The emerging Cy Young candidate went on to throw 6.2 scoreless while allowing just one hit, and Grichuk certainly helped to keep the line clean.
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I won’t go as far as saying that Grichuk is a Gold Glove candidate in centre field, or even a premium defender up the middle, but he’s proven himself as more than capable at the important spot on the field over the last two seasons. It seems like he’s taking things to another level lately as well, and if that’s because of a motivation to try and get back to starting full time, then so be it.
When you consider the alternatives in centre, it’s pretty easy to see that Grichuk is the best option. With all due respect to Teoscar Hernandez and Corey Dickerson, I hope we don’t see either of the corner outfielders in centre again in 2021, even if the former has a bit of experience there. Jarrod Dyson is capable of taking over in the late innings, but he’s best used as a pinch runner/late-inning defensive replacement anyway, and doesn’t offer any more with the bat than a struggling Grichuk.
With the way the Blue Jays’ lineup has been rolling over the last three games, they can afford to stash Grichuk and his capable glove right near the bottom of their lineup. Their top six will consist of some combination of George Springer, Marcus Semien, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Alejandro Kirk has been hitting well when he’s started as well. That means that the Jays can leave Grichuk and whomever is playing third base for the last two spots in the order (at least when Kirk starts), and his power potential that low in the order could still be an asset.
More importantly, the Blue Jays can’t afford to give away any outs on the glove side of the game, and Grichuk is their best defender in the outfield. It’s not looking like George Springer is going to be able to play defence any time soon, and as long as that’s the case, I hope Grichuk is a regular on Montoyo’s lineup card.