Milwaukee Brewers: What Can Trent Grisham Provide?
By Dan Larsen
With the Milwaukee Brewers calling up their sixth ranked prospect, outfielder Trent Grisham, what can he provide to the team?
The trade deadline has officially passed us by!
Though it may not have been as exciting of a deadline as many were hoping for, the Milwaukee Brewers did make some moves that will (hopefully!) help them contend for the post-season this year and beyond.
Shortly after the deadline passed, however, exciting news emerged regarding a potential roster move: It was reported that they were calling up one of their top prospects, outfielder Trent Grisham.
With Grisham in the fold, let’s take a look at his profile and discuss what he could bring to the team.
Background on Trent Grisham
Grisham has had a roller coast experience in the minors since he was drafted at 18 years of age by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 15th pick of the 2015 MLB Draft.
Grisham was a highly regarded high school bat when the Brewers took him that year. In MLB.com’s mid-season top-100 prospect rankings after that draft, they ranked him 86th overall. His initial debut in pro-ball went well, as he posted a .309/.422/.442 slash line in 40 games with the Milwaukee Brewers rookie affiliate. That helped him move up to 62nd in MLB.com’s top 100 rankings to start the 2016 season.
After that promising start, however, he struggled significantly. Grisham failed to hit for better than a .233 average over his next three seasons in the minor leagues. or slug above .348. Entering this season, it looked like Grisham may be about to join a long list of failed first round picks.
2019 has been a completely different story for Grisham. Grisham posted a .254/.371/.504 slash line over 283 at-bats for Double-A Biloxi this year. That incredible turnaround saw him promoted to Triple-A, where he continued to improve.
He posted an absurd slash line of .381/.471/.776 in 34 games with the Milwaukee Brewers Triple-A affiliate. Grisham hit as many home runs in those 34 games (13) as he did in 63 games in Double-A this year. Both nearly doubled his previous career best in home runs over an entire season (eight).
According to FanGraphs WRC+, his offensive production in Triple-A graded out well-above average (193), even though offensive numbers across that level of play are through the roof this year thanks to the juiced ball.
Overall, Grisham’s total minor league stat line for 2019 stands at .300/.407/.603 across 97 games. His OPS is over 1.000 (1.010). He’s hit 22 doubles, six triples, and 26 home runs. And, he’s stolen 12 bases.
All of that crazy production saw Grisham move back up to sixth in the Milwaukee Brewers system in MLB.com’s mid-season update. Baseball America also recently wrote about his breakout season as well. Grisham is just 22 years old.
What He Can Provide
Trent Grisham should provide the Milwaukee Brewers with a unique skillset.
Much of what attracted scouts to Grisham at such a young age was his elite pitch recognition and plate discipline. Grisham has posted a well-above-average BB% at every level he’s played at in the Minors.
He’s posted a BB% above 15% at all but two levels of the minors. Even then, his lowest percentage in a season was 14.1% in his first full professional season in the Minors (2016).
He’s elite at working the count and getting on-base. Even when he was failing to hit for contact or power in years past, he always showed a great eye at the plate.
What’s exceptionally noteworthy about his performance this year, besides the contact/power tools we’ll discuss in a minute, is that Grisham has reduced his strikeouts significantly while improving on other aspects of his hitting. Grisham struck out just 17.7% of the time in Double-A while walking at a rate of 15.5%. In Triple-A, he’s walked more often (14.6%) than he struck out (13.9%).
Few hitters in the Minors, or the Majors for that matter, are able to walk as often as they strike out. He should be able great at working the count and getting on-base on a regular basis.
Grisham should also bring solid hit and power tools with him to the Majors.
Before 2019, Grisham’s approach at the plate was too passive. What’s changed this season is Grisham has been much more aggressive at swinging at good pitches to hit in the zone. It’s paying dividends too!
Grisham has seen his line drive percentage on batted-balls-in-play increase from just 13% last season, to 16.8% in Double A this year. It’s 25% in Triple-A.
The one thing that was holding back Grisham’s average in Double-A in 2019 was an exceptionally low BABIP. Though he was making better contact more often at that level, his BABIP was just .269. In Triple-A, he’s increased that to .384. It’s no surprise, then, that his average is well over .300 at that level.
Grisham should be able to hit for at least a respectable average at the Major League level, and could, if this break-out is real, become a hitter who hits .270-to-.300 annually. He has the ability to become an exceptional hitter for average because of his good eye/discipline, and his smooth, but powerful swing.
He also has consistent gap-to-gap power that’s turned into substantial home-run power this year,. What stands out is that he was hitting a lot of home runs in Double A where they aren’t using the same juiced ball as MLB and Triple-A are.
His power surge has come thanks to the team making an effort to get him to hit “the ball more out in front.” He’s getting the head of the bat through the zone quicker and making contact on balls further out in front of the plate than he used to. That’s allowed him barrel up the ball much more often, meaning he’s marking solid contact much more frequently.
Grisham should, even if his power isn’t quite as good moving forward as it has been this season, have no trouble hitting 15-20 home runs on an annual basis with a lot of doubles to boot.
Grisham is also a good runner. MLB.com grades out his speed as 50 (average) on a 20-80 scale, but he is a threat to steal a good amount of bases. Grisham stole 37 bases in 2017, and has stolen 12 so far in 2019. He could be a threat to steal 20 bases annually.
Last, but not least, Grisham’s fielding grades out as average or better because of his range and ability to read the ball off the bat well. However, he does have a below-average arm, something that does limit his defensive upside a bit.
That’s limited him to playing primarily left field and center field throughout his career. Grisham can do a serviceable job in center, but it stands to reason most of his time will probably come in left where his defensive skills play best.
If it weren’t for the fact that he struggled in each of the past three seasons prior to this, Grisham would be getting real top prospect buzz right now. Everything he’s done so far in 2019 suggests this his turnaround isn’t a fluke. It may have just taken him time to figure out the right approach for himself to excel at the plate.
Grisham’s floor could be high. He figures to be at least a fourth outfielder because of his defense and his bat, even if his bat regresses a bit over the highs he’s reached this season. His ceiling could be a regular starter in left where he competes to make at least a few all-star games in his best offensive seasons.
Their tools differ slightly, but I think a good/realistic comparison for Grisham, if he realizes his potential, is Nick Markakis.
Like Grisham, Markakis had an exceptional eye and was extremely disciplined at the plate. He moved quickly through the minors because of that, his exceptional ability to hit for contact, and his fielding.
Markakis has gone to post 29.3 fWAR across 14 seasons. He’s been a well-rounded outfielder whenever he’s been able to stay healthy.
If the Milwaukee Brewers were to get the kind of production Markakis has produced over his career, they’d absolutely take that.
It will be exciting to see what Grisham can bring to the table in his debut!