When the Pittsburgh Pirates paid Robbie Grossman a $1 M bonus as a sixth round pick, his 2011 season might not have been what they envisioned, but it certainly is something they would have taken. Grossman has put up a .286/.422/.416 line in 339 at-bats this year, with seven homers and 19 stolen bases. This follows a 2010 season in which Grossman had a .245/.344/.345 line in 470 at-bats, along with four homers and 15 stolen bases, all at the exact same level.
The thing that stands out the most this year about Grossman has been his walks. He has walked 81 times this year, which is already a career high, despite having 100 fewer plate appearances than when he walked 75 times in 2009. Grossman’s 81 walks hold a big lead in the Florida State League, and he falls second in all of baseball to Jaff Decker, who has 83 walks at the AA level. What’s even better than the walks has been his low strikeout totals.
Grossman got off to a bad start in his career in 2009, with a 36.4% strikeout rate in West Virginia. In 2010 he cut down on those strikeouts, taking his rate to 25.1%. That’s an improvement, but for a guy who had a .345 slugging percentage, it wasn’t good. This year he’s down to 23.3%, which combined with his added power (.416 slugging) is a much more reasonable rate. There’s still room for improvement, but at the same time, he’s already made a massive improvement over the last two years.
Grossman is only 21 years old, and as of this year he’s hitting for average, getting on base at a tremendous rate, and showing some power, mostly with extra base hits, but also with a few extra homers. Coming in to the season he had nine homers in 937 at-bats. This year he has seven homers in 339 at-bats. He might not add a ton of power going forward, but he could be a 15-20 home run a year guy who gets a lot of extra base hits. When you consider his speed and strong defense in the corners, that could make him a valuable guy going forward, only adding to the outfield depth the Pirates are building up in the minors.