Earlier this week, the Oakland Athletics added left fielder Robbie Grossman to an already crowded outfield. Grossman will vie for playing time with the A’s other corner outfielders Nick Martini, Stephen Piscotty, Mark Canha, and Chad Pinder. The A’s didn’t need Grossman, but even for a team as stingy as Oakland, there’s no downside to acquiring depth for $2 million. Grossman may even have some untapped upside.
There’s a lot to like about Robbie Grossman as a hitter. In the past three years, his OBP hasn’t fallen below .360. His 13.9 walk percentage over that time is 12th in the majors right between Brandon Belt and Kyle Schwarber. He’s an above-average contact hitter, and a quarter of the balls he puts in play are line drives. His sprint speed is in the 67th percentile.
Grossman has been a good hitter over the last three seasons, certainly. A .341 wOBA and a 112 wRC+ over a three-year period is nothing to sneeze at. However, it’s never seemed like Grossman has been as valuable as he could be. In his time with the Twins, Grossman has only accumulated 2.0 fWAR. He gets dinged by his average-to-subpar defense, but he hasn’t been a disaster in any year aside from 2016 when he posted a -21 DRS.
Conspicuously absent from Grossman’s game is a lack of power. The past two seasons, his slugging has remained under .400 and his ISO has hovered around .100. This wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, but Grossman seemingly has some untapped power potential.
Grossman has excellent bat-to-ball skills and his O-swing rate is consistently in the top five. His discipline and his contact skills have carried him through the majors thus far, but one has to wonder why the power hasn’t come.
Grossman has had a rather pedestrian hard-hit rate in the majors thus far. Statcast tracked him at just 27.5 last year. His barrel percentage of 2.2 was in the bottom six percent of the league. It’s not as if Grossman can’t hit the ball hard. His max exit velocity hangs around 110. It’s that when he does hit the ball hard, he doesn’t hit it at an angle conducive for power.
At first glance, that may not seem to be the case. Grossman’s average exit velocity on grounders is four mph slower than it is on fly balls and line drives. Grossman doesn’t suffer the same as Austin Slater who lights up Statcast on the ground more than he does in the air. Most of Grossman’s hard hits tend to come between 10 and 20 degrees. Balls hit in that region tend to be singles and start turning into doubles around 95 mph+.
Grossman is a good hitter, and perhaps there’s a possibility for him to be a great hitter. For that to happen, he’ll have to hit the ball hard, and hit the ball in the air. He can do both individually, it’s doing both at the same time that’s a problem.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.