We all have different conceptions of what is/isn’t gross. I hate mayonnaise. It’s the most disgusting thing and the mere sight of it makes me want to puke. Mustard too. I can deal with ketchup, but sometimes it makes me gag as well. I know, I’m a freaking weirdo. I don’t care. I don’t care. Grossness is triggered by any of the senses. Some can’t stand the sight of toe jam, while others cringe at the sound of nails scraping a blackboard. Smell can make one float in the air like Pepe Le Pew or barf like Stewie Griffin. I traveled to Hong Kong many years ago with my wife and one day she brought a bag of durian into the hotel room. Once she opened the bag, the smell. The god-awful smell permeated the entire room. It was straight-up chemical warfare. I keeled over into a fetal position, put a pillow over my head, and held my breath. I would rather die than smell another whiff of that fruit. Then my wife kicked my balls and inserted a piece of durian into my mouth. O. M. G. Heaven. Bliss. Which brings me to Robbie Grossman of the Detroit Tigers. He looks like shit and probably smells like shit after playing nine innings, but is there some savory sweetness for fantasy that can induce a chef’s kiss?
Grossman is 31 years old, 6′ 0″, 215 pounds, and bats from both sides of the plate. The Pirates selected him in the sixth round of the 2008 MLB Draft. In Single-A, he put up 13 homers, 24 stolen bases, and 127 runs scored with a 16.9% walk rate, 18% strikeout rate, and .294/.418/.451 slash in 616 plate appearances.
In 2012, he was traded to the Astros, released in 2015, signed with the Twins in 2016, then with the Athletics in 2019 before becoming a part of the Tigers for this season. Throughout his playing career, there wasn’t much to get excited about. Little pop, little power, little average, and the defensive issues prevented him from being a full-time player. Ewww, Grossman.
The walk and strikeout rates always remained good, though, and the OBP was often in the .340 or higher range. So why am I writing about Grossman today?
He is slated to be the leadoff hitter for the Tigers. He has also improved his defense over the years and is a switch hitter, so platooning may not be an issue. He could see the highest number of plate appearances in his career if everything goes well. Steamer has him projected for 535 plate appearances, while his prior high was 482 in 2019. This is not strictly a volume play, though.
Grossman made some tangible changes to his hitting profile last season. He hit fewer ground balls, more flyballs, and started pulling the ball at a higher rate. In 2018, the pull rate was 36.6%. In 2019, that number was 29.8%. Last season, it spiked to 47.7%. All the other plate discipline numbers point to a more aggressive approach at the plate. The chase rate increased 7% and he swung at 5% more pitches in general. He had career-highs in barrel rate, exit velocity, launch angle, and hard hit rate.
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The sample size in 2020 was only 192 plate appearances, so there’s uncertainty if that can be maintained over a 162 season.
With that said, what if it can? The BABIP was .267 last season, so it wasn’t like he was getting lucky. There are tangible numbers to indicate that he made a conscious change at the plate while maintaining his excellent walk (10.9%) and strikeout (19.8%) rates. He hit eight homers and stole eight bases last season, which would have been close to a 20/20 pace.
He’s currently being drafted as the 405th player on average in NFBC drafts. It looks like shit, smells like shit, but maybe it doesn’t actually taste like shit. Regardless, the risk/reward is very favorable, and if he bombs, then there’s no problem tossing it in the trash and replacing him with someone else. TREASURE