Grichuk’s early season struggles cause for concern for Toronto
By Cole Shelton
Canadian Baseball Network
Throughout Randal Grichuk’s career he has struck out a lot. Grichuk also does not take many walks so his plate discipline has not been good either. However, this offseason Grichuk did work on his eyesight to help improve his plate discipline after being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Before Grichuk was traded to Toronto he was supposed to be the everyday right fielder with the St. Louis Cardinals, however, he was sent to down to triple-A last season after he was striking out and not hitting.
Grichuk has taken steps to improve his plate discipline but it is quite clear he is still struggling at the dish and it is a cause for concern for the Blue Jays. Grichuk currently has a .071 batting average through April 15th, and an on-base percentage of .149, not the numbers to stay in the line up every day.
Taking a deeper dive into why Grichuk has struggled at the plate to begin the season is quite clear. Grichuk is still striking out a lot and not walking. Grichuk is striking out 34% of the time and walking just 8.5% of the time, according to Fangraphs. While he is striking out a lot, he is also swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone, as Fangraphs says he is swinging at 30.6% of pitches outside the strike zone and making contact on 46.7% of those swings.
While Grichuk is still lacking plate discipline, another reason why he is struggling is he isn’t making hard contact which normally results in home runs or doubles. Grichuk’s hard contact this season is at 29.6% of all his contact way down from last season where it was 40.2%, and throughout his career, it has been in the high 30’s to low 40’s.
With Grichuk striking out a lot and not making hard contact, it makes manager John Gibbons' job harder to even put Grichuk in the lineup. He is a very good defender, but with him struggling at the plate, and Curtis Granderson and Steve Pearce hitting well, it makes sense to have Grichuk sit.
To make matters worse for Grichuk and his early-season struggles, Toronto has called up Teoscar Hernandez who made an impact right away in his first game. Hernandez, also a right fielder, is probably as good as Grichuk as a defender and so far has shown to be a better hitter, leaving Grichuk on the outside.
If Grichuk can not start hitting soon the Blue Jays may decide to ride Hernandez as the starting right fielder.
Obviously, this is not the Grichuk Toronto was hoping to acquire when they parted with reliever Dominic Leone and pitching prospect Conner Greene to land him.
How Grichuk can start to hit, is the same answer he has been facing his whole career. Grichuk simply needs to stop swinging at balls outside the zone which should help him get into fastball counts and be able to lineup a fastball for a hit.
But to say Grichuk hasn’t been making good contact already is a lie. Though he went on a 0-for-36 stretch, Grichuk is still hitting the ball at a good launch angle, as his average, this season is 22.7 degrees, close to the 25-35 degrees many hitters think is the sweet spot. Grichuk is hitting a lot of balls to the outfield but flying out or hitting ground balls that aren’t squeaking through.
Grichuk has some things going his way but can’t seem to buy a hit. He also has a lot to improve on. Many may think it all may even out and Grichuk will go on a hot streak soon, but for now, his struggles at the plate are a cause for concern for Toronto as they may have to decide what to do with him soon ... especially if Hernandez keeps hitting well.