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We continue to look at the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays by looking at an every day player who put together a solid season for the Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk.
Grichuk, 29, was a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels back in 2009 out of high school in Texas and rose through the Angels’ farm system to reach Double-A Arkansas in 2013 where he hit .256/.306/.474 with 22 home runs as a 21 year old. He was traded that offseason to the Cardinals and made his major league debut the next year (2014), playing 47 games in the bigs, hitting .245/.278/.400.
Entrenched as a big-league regular in 2015, he played 103 games and made a big impression with the Cardinals, hitting 17 home runs and had a .276/.329/.548 slash line before settling back to a .240/.289/.480 line the following year in 132 games.
Grichuk played 122 games in the big leagues in 2017 and hit another 22 home runs but again failed to break the .300 plateau for his OBP, hitting .238/.285/.473 and was traded to Toronto that offseason.
Grichuk came to Toronto and had one of his better seasons in 2018, playing 124 games and hitting .245/.301/.502 and set a career high with 32 doubles and 25 home runs. At the beginning of the 2019 season, Grichuk signed a new contract that would take him five years and pay him over $50 million. That year, his power numbers went up and he played a career-high 151 games but he hit .232/.280/.457 with 31 home runs.
Despite the slight regression in 2019, Grichuk came into spring training ready, playing 12 games and hit .286/.394/.643 with three home runs before things were shut down.
Grichuk was fairly durable in 2020, playing in 55 games and hitting .272/.312/.481 with nine doubles and 12 home runs. He had his second-best OPS+ as a Blue Jay, 114 but he was also playing center field, a position where his abilities are not maximized and he was worth only 0.1 WAR (according to Baseball Reference, he was worth 0.6 WAR according to Fangraphs).
In the playoffs, Grichuk went 1/7 with a walk and five strikeouts in the two games against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Interestingly, Grichuk appeared to hit more balls into the ground last year than at any other point in his career. His exit velocity was down slightly and his launch angle was down significantly. In his first season, he averaged a 16.3 degree launch angle that he hovered around each year until 2020 when it fell to 12.6 degrees. His exit velocity was at a career high in 2015 at 92.3 mph but that’s fallen to 88.9 mph in 2020, his lowest average exit velocity in his career. While his hard-hit ball percentage fell to its lowest point in 2020, his strikeout rate also fell to its lowest point in 2020 as it was 21.2% this season, down from his rookie season’s 31.4%.
Grichuk is under contract for two more years but that contract is actually quite team friendly. He’s owed $10,333,333 per season for the next three years after earning a pro-rated share of $13 million in 2020. Look for the Jays to try to upgrade defensively in center field, pushing Grichuk to one of the corners in 2021.
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