Like a booger hanging from your nose, Robbie Grossman’s fantasy profile does not look very appealing at first glance. Forget the fact that Robbie’s last name has the word “gross” in it, let’s just take a look at Robbie Grossman the baseball player. He’s a 31-year-old outfielder now playing with his sixth different organization after having spent most of his career as a backup outfielder. Most people would look at this, say “ewwww,” and move on. Not me though. See, I try to find the good in everything. Whether I’m changing my 1-year-old’s poopy diaper or picking out his boogers, I look at every situation as an opportunity to find something of value. That’s why I’d like to take a look at why drafting Robbie Grossman might not be so disgusting and how he can potentially provide value to your fantasy baseball team in 2021.
Drafted by the Pirates in 2008, Robbie Grossman has been the quintessential journeyman to this point in his career. He debuted in the majors with the Astros in 2013 and has since bounced around the league, with stints in Cleveland, Minnesota, and Oakland along the way. Through 2019, Grossman was mostly relegated to being a platoon player, as he had never surpassed more than 482 plate appearances and had never accumulated more than 0.9 WAR. However, as was the case for most of us, things changed for Grossman in 2020, when he was was thrust into an everyday role as the Athletics’ left-fielder in the shortened season, which he took advantage of by swatting 8 home runs, swiping 8 stolen bases, and putting up a 127 wRC+ in 192 plate appearances in 2020. Can we believe in this improved version of Robbie Grossman? Well, the Tigers front office clearly does, as his career year netted him a 2-year, $10 million deal from Detroit this offseason. Let’s look under the hood of the Motor City’s new left fielder to determine whether he’s going to be a fantasy lemon or provide some legitimate horsepower to your teams this year.
One of the skills that Grossman has displayed throughout his career is above-average plate discipline. Last year was no different, as he posted a solid 10.9% walk rate, which was backed up by a 25.9% O-Swing pct. and 83.1% contact rate. What was most surprising about Grossman’s 2020 was his .241 Isolated Power, which was easily a career high. So you’re saying that we now have a player with a foundation of good plate discipline but one who can also hit for power? That’s like when you’re in a relationship with someone who has a nice, stable personality but the sex is kinda “meh.” Then one day they read Fifty Shades of Grey (not Razzball Grey) and all of a sudden you’re getting laid more than Rob Gronkowski. Good sex is like category juice, as they they both can quickly turn a relationship/player into the total package. So what was Grossman’s Fifty Shades of Grey? Well, this January 2021 article by Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic contains the goods as to how Grossman revamped his swing and changed his offensive approach heading into 2020. According to Stavenhagen’s article, A’s hitting coach Darren Bush worked with Grossman on generating more consistent hard contact by “generating power from the ground up.” This led to a swing change that enabled Grossman to post career-bests in barrel rate, average exit velocity, and hard-hit rate. There was also a dramatic difference in Grossman’s spray chart last year, as his Pull% jumped from 29.8% in 2019 to 47.7% in 2020. Like I’ve touched on in my Ke’Bryan Hayes and Will Smith articles, we need to be careful to not overreact to 2020 results due to it being such a small sample. However, I’m much more likely to buy in when I can see an intentional change in approach that leads to skills growth. Grossman may be a different player going forward and that could lead to him being undervalued by both projections systems and the fantasy community.
Oh Rudy, you’re killing my buzz with your Grossman projection on the Razzball Steamer projections of 10 home runs, 7 stolen bases, and a .258 average in 383 plate appearances. I get it, the dude’s statistical track record is not inspiring and makes it impossible to project him for much more than that. Though I’ll usually defer to the projection systems, in this case I think they may be selling Grossman shorter than those hedge funds who tried to short Gamestop (we know how that turned out).
See, Robbie Grossman has never been given a true opportunity as a full-time player. Maybe there’s a reason for that…or maybe there’s a better player in there than we realize. The fact that the Tigers gave him a 2-year contract indicates to me that he’s going to get a legitimate opportunity to show what he can do with everyday at-bats. Roster Resource projects Grossman to hit leadoff in the Tigers’ lineup, which makes sense given the fact that he’s a switch-hitter with above-average on-base skills. Grossman also appears to have a close relationship with his former manager and new Tigers manager AJ Hinch, as Hinch was quoted here as saying that he has “the utmost respect” for Grossman and that he was “a huge reason” that he decided to take the Tigers’ job. It’s almost like AJ Hinch has as much love for Robbie Grossman as he does for allowing his team to cheat their way to a World Series title (I’m still salty y’all).
This combination of playing time and skills improvement leads me to feel rather bullish about Grossman heading into 2021. I understand the downside. Maybe Grossman goes back to being gross and gets buried at the bottom of the Tigers’ lineup or reverts to being a part-time player. I have to admit, the Nomar Mazara signing (1-year, $1.75 million) complicates the Tigers’ outfield situation and makes me slightly nervous that Grossman realizes this downside if he doesn’t start the season strong. That’s fine though because I can get Robbie after pick 350, meaning that I have no problem cutting ties and sending him back to the waiver wire if things don’t work out. However, I don’t think that’s the most likely outcome. I think the most likely scenario is that you get solid production from Grossman, with him putting up around 15-17 home runs, 12-14 stolen bases, decent counting stats, and a palatable batting average. As a fifth fantasy outfielder, that will do just fine. But maybe, just maybe Grossman carries over the power gains from 2020 while continuing to be aggressive on the base paths. What does that upside look like? Am I crazy to think that Robbie Grossman can do something like a .255 average with 22 home runs and 16 stolen bases? Was it crazy to think that virtual dog tokens would eventually become a legitimate store of value? The answer to both is “yes” but sometimes you need to have some crazy ideas to reap the biggest rewards in life. By the way, that upside projection I gave you is essentially Cavan Biggio’s projection, who’s being drafted 300 picks before Grossman.
Here’s how I’m approaching Grossman in drafts; in AL-Only and 15-teamers, I’m all over him (especially in OBP leagues). You probably won’t need to draft him in 12-teamers but that doesn’t mean he should be thrown in the toilet and flushed like a dead goldfish. Keep him on that watch list and make sure you pounce the minute that you see him pop up on the Rotoworld…I mean NBC Sports Edge’s waiver wire articles (why did they have to ruin a good thing).
We’re 1200 words in and I feel like need a shower y’all. Seriously, writing/reading a Robbie Grossman fantasy article can leave you with a pretty yucky feeling. It’s important to remember, however, that sometimes yucky things can turn out to be good things. I believe Grossman is one of those good things, as I see legitimate value in Grossman’s profile heading into this fantasy season. Is there any value to be had in picking boogers and changing poopy diapers? I lied y’all, that s*** is just plain gross.