Major League Spotlight- Robbie Grossman

Scott Halleran

The Astros have a new starting center fielder for the time being, and he only has five major league at-bats. Who is Robbie Grossman, and does he have a spot in the Astros' long term plans?

When the Astros finally dealt Wandy Rodriguez after months of speculation that their longest-tenured player at the time was on the move, many fans were somewhat lukewarm on the return that they received. The centerpiece of the package of prospects the lefty Rodriguez brought to town was ex-Cypress Fairbanks outfielder Robbie Grossman, a highly popular post-2011 sleeper who had struggled with the transition to AA in 2012. Since then, Grossman has repaired his stock and now finds himself patrolling Tal's Hill in orange and blue.

For a middle-round high school prospect, Grossman was a very fast riser. After 21 rookie ball plate appearances in his draft year, he posted a .373 OBP in low A ball with 35 stolen bases, though they were aided by a .408 BABIP that balanced out his 30.7% K rate. The Pirates deemed him ready for high A in 2010 and he responded fairly positively for a 20 year old, improving his K rate all the way to an even 21% and repeating his high walk rate. However, his BABIP dipped precipitously and he hit just .245 despite the positive markers.

2011 was a good year for Grossman. He repeated high A and dominated, slashing .293/.418/.450 with 24 stolen bases and a career-high 13 home runs. Rewarding him for his success, the Bucs assigned him to the Arizona Fall League where he boosted his stock to an all time high. He walked in 15.9% of his AFL plate appearances, hit seven homers in 126 trips, stole six bases and slashed an otherworldly .375/.472/.625 for a wOBA of .474. Many listed Grossman in their top 100s and he was seen as having a good chance of being a regular in the future.

The hype train was derailed in 2012 as a wrist injury that he chose to play through hampered his bat, leading to a very slow start. However, he rebounded some mid-season and had his slash line at .266/.378/.406 at the time of the trade. He posted similar numbers once he arrived in Corpus, though he did strike out significantly more. This year, he has continued to be Robbie Grossman- farily high strikeout rate, stratospheric walk rate, and solid outfield defense. Can that make him a regular?

At the plate, Grossman has a great approach. He has a quick stroke from both sides of the plate, loads his hands well and pulls the trigger quickly. He has room to fill out in his lower half which could help his power a bit down the line. Though he has been a prolific base stealer at times, that was largely a product of instincts on the basepaths rather than his speed, as he's a 50 runner on the 20-80 scale. When I watch Grossman hit, I see someone who still has room to grow as a hitter. His swing and approach should allow him to hit for better averages than he has, and I think there's a bit of raw power yet to be untapped. When that is paired with his plus actions in the outfield that allow him to be deployed at all three spots, he has the look of a guy who can stick on a major league roster for the long haul, even though he'd likely have to play a corner outfield spot due to his fringy speed in CF. He's a good long term asset, and should become a staple on the Houston roster for at least the next few seasons.

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