Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Twins sign Robbie Grossman, who is he and what can he do?

Today the Minnesota Twins have signed OF Robbie Grossman who has opted out from his minor league deal with Cleveland.  Details on a roster spot are not out yet, but the Twins have an open spot on their 40-man roster.  

Who is Robbie Grossman?

Grossman is a lefty throwing switch-hitting outfielder, listed at 6 feet even and 215 lbs.  He was drafted by the Pirates with the second pick of the 6th round of the 2008 draft out of Cy Fair High School in Cypress TX.  He turned 26, a few months ago. In 2012, when he was ranked the 76th overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America, Grossman was the star prospect who went to Houston in the trade that brought then 33 year old and effective starter Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates for their pennant run.

Grossman was seen as part of Houston's rebuilding, and he was given opportunities to win a starting job in the majors in 2013 (63 games,) 2014 (104 games,) and 2015 (24 games.)  After last season, Grossman was not in the contending Astros' plans, was not offered arbirtation and released in November and singed with the Cardinals who had assigned him to their AAA Columbus Clippers team.  The Clippers are playing in the same league the Twins' AAA team, but they have not yet met this season, thus Grossman was not heavily scouted by the Twins.

He hit .256/.370/.453 with 6 HRs, 21 BBs and 25 Ks in 139 AAA PAs this season before he opted out and played 19 games at CF, 10 at LF and 1 at RF.  During his whole MLB and MiLB career he has played 391 games at CF, 314 at LF and 259 at RF.   How good of an outfielder is he?  In the majors he spent most of his time at LF (1018.7 innings) rated +2 with plus minus, saved 2 defensive runs and had a -0.4 UZR.   His time in CF (250.3 innings, -5 plus/minus, -7 DRS, -9.4 UZR) and RF (278.7 innings, +2 plus/minus, 6 DRS, 4.8 UZR,) are less significant but indicate an average to slightly above average corner OF who could play CF, but not that great.   The level of his Centerfield play is at or slightly below of that of Danny Santana (708.1 inn, -5 plus/minus, -3 DRS, -7.3 UZR,) who is the Twins current Centerfielder.

His career MLB slash line is .240/.327/.341, including a .143/.222/.245 2015 campaign that (along with his .254/.354/.349 AAA PCL numbers) moved him off the Astros' future plans.  He hits equally well left and right hand pitching, has moderate gap power and slightly above average speed, which does not translate into stolen base success (career 65% success rate.)

Bottom line:  I think that the Twins are seeing Grossman as an upgrade with the bat over both Danny Santana (who is hitting .250/.268/.338 in 2016 with the Twins) and Darin Mastroianni (his current backup,) and not much of a drop on the field, in the Centerfield position.  And they are probably right. He will likely get the open 40-man spot and Mastroianni's  25-man roster spot soon, performing as the Twins starting Centerfielder for the foreseeable future.

What the Twins fans have to ask themselves is whether Grossman is a Centerfielder that any competitive team would have (the Astros gave that answer last off-season) and, if not, whether the Twins are served better in the long term by giving the spot to the man who they plan to hold it for a long while, Byron Buxton.  But this is for Terry Ryan to answer.


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