The Blue Jays might not need to add another outfielder, as Randal Grichuk, a perfectly capable outfielder, could be all they need in the coming seasons.
It’s obvious that the Toronto Blue Jays will have a dominant offensively charged infield for years to come. With a bevy of talented youngsters coming up through the system, they’re all but set around the horn.
Despite this, though, they have an outfield that can best be described as mediocre. While they do have some pieces of value, the future of the outfielders remains largely uncertain. With that said, Randal Grichuk, a perfect restoration project if there ever was one, might be enough to complete the shoestring outfield that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are putting together.
First, let’s assume that Teoscar Hernandez (.239/.302/.468, 22 HR, 57 RBI, 134 G in 2018), Billy McKinney (.252/.320/.470, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 36 G in 2018), Dwight Smith Jr. (.262/.347/.477, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 35 G in 2018), and Anthony Alford (.240/.312/.344, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 105 G at Triple-A Buffalo in 2018) are all going to be firmly in the mix going forward. For the sake of being conservative, Kevin Pillar is not included in this assessment.
With that said, the corner outfield positions will most likely be manned by some combination of Hernandez, McKinney, Smith Jr., and perhaps the occasional appearance of Brandon Drury or Roemon Fields at some point. That leaves Grichuk, who evened out to a slash of .245/.301/.502 in 124 games in 2018, in centerfield.
Now, Grichuk might not be the prototypical centerfielder. He doesn’t steal a lot of bases, and though his defence is respectable, he doesn’t outshine his outfield counterparts around the league. Still, he’s a competent outfielder who could serve the needs of this team going forward. He just might be good enough to slot into that spot going forward.
Fangraphs’ Steamer projections have him slashing .242/.298/.488 next season with 28 home runs, 67 RBI and a wRC+ of 110 (just a single point above his career mark). This is a safe projection by all accounts, but it could prove to be true. If it does, it’ll work in the Blue Jays’ favour.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. coming up sometime in the spring, Justin Smoak anchoring the lineup, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hitting near the top of the order, Grichuk likely won’t be relied on for heavy lifting offensively. Couple that with the growth of Rowdy Tellez and the eventual call-ups of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Jonathan Davis, and suddenly, Grichuk becomes a complementary piece with the bat.
This isn’t even taking into account Grichuk’s defence, which was solid and showed signs of steady improvement. With more experience, it’s likely that he’ll only continue to improve with the glove.
Of course, this is assuming that all the aforementioned names will be as productive as Blue Jays fans hope they’ll be. It’s far from a sure thing that all the prospects will hit the way they’ve hit in the lower minors, and it’s even further from a sure thing that the already prepped major league pieces will continue their limited success.
Still, it’s definitely possible that with Grichuk as the centrepiece of an unassuming outfield, the Blue Jays could quietly be avoiding one part of the game while supplementing it with a strength in another part.