Has Padres CF Trent Grisham turned a corner?

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Grisham is off to a hot start in 2023. Is this the new and improved Grisham, or just smoke and mirrors?

It’s no secret that the Padres are off to a less-than-stellar start, especially at the plate. The Padres are 25th in runs per game and have a below-average 94 OPS+ as a team. Two players seem unaffected by this contagious virus of lifelessness at the plate- Xander Bogaerts (.993 OPS, 176 OPS+) and center fielder Trent Grisham.

The former is mostly unsurprising, given Bogaerts is a four-time All-Star with five Silver Slugger Awards under his belt. On the other hand, Grisham pops off the page. This is the same player that, among 130 qualified hitters last season, ranked dead last at 130th in batting average and 124th in wRC+.

Through 20 games so far in 2023, he is batting .233, still unspectacular, but that does not tell the whole story. His four home runs, 11 walks, .826 OPS, and 129 OPS+ are all second on the ballclub. All this while continuing to play Gold Glove-level defense in center field, one of the most demanding defensive positions in baseball.

Thursday night in Arizona offered a snapshot of the kind of dynamic player he is when in a groove. The Padres do not beat the Diamondbacks 7-5 on Thursday night without their mustachioed center fielder in the lineup. He had not one but two two-run doubles. Both of them gave the Padres a two-run lead. Those two doubles added a total of 49 percent to Baseball Reference’s “winning team win probability added.” Meaning he added a 49 percent chance to the Padres winning that game with those two swings.

To compare from last year, here is how Grisham’s first 20 games from each season shake out.

2022 .141
2023 .233


2022 .507
2023 .827


Extra Base Hits
2022 4
2023 11

Clearly, Grisham is off to a much better start in 2023. But is it sustainable?

Looking at his Statcast profile, it seems like this could be an improved version of the two-time Gold Glover. Last season, he ranked in the 38th percentile for average exit velocity, 25th percentile for hard hit rate, and 23rd for xWOBA.

This season, he is in the 93rd percentile for average exit velocity, 72nd in hard hit rate, and 83rd in xWOBA.

There appears to be a lot more red in Grisham’s profile to start this season.

Another gripe with fans regarding Grisham is his seemingly overly passive approach at the plate. That was exacerbated when he struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the game against the Brewers on Sunday.

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Among those aforementioned 130 qualified hitters from last season, Grisham ranked 128th in swing rate at pitches inside the strike zone at 58.1 percent. That means only two qualified hitters swung less at strikes last season than Grisham.

This season, that number is up to 68.9 percent. His overall swing percentage is up from 37.9 last year to 46.0 this season. The fear is if Grisham starts swinging more just for the sake of swinging more, he will strike out more often. So far, that has not been the case. Last year he turned in a 28.6 percent strikeout rate. Thus far, in 2023, it’s at 26.2 percent. He seems to be swinging more at quality pitches.

It appears, by his slight change in approach at the plate, with more positive results when he makes contact, that Grisham has put his wretched 2022 campaign behind him. While he will never be mistaken for Ken Griffey Jr., he is becoming a much more well-rounded player. If the Padres can get the same Gold Glove Grisham in center, with him being a slight-above-average hitter, this team becomes one of the most complete in all of baseball.

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