|Born: September 16, 1989
Height: 6′ 1″
Drafted: 6th Round, 174th Overall, 2008
High School: Cypress Fairbanks HS (Cypress, TX)
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|At the time he was drafted, I found conflicting opinions about Grossman. Baseball America rated him the 49th best prospect in the draft and thought he had a chance of sneaking into the supplemental or late first round, but he apparently fell due to his commitment to Texas and the fact that he fell off in 2008 after hitting .450 in 2007. Scouts clocking him also found that he’d lost some speed, going from above average to average and leading to characterizations as a “tweener” rather than a centerfielder. MLB.com characterized him as lacking any above-average tools and playing above his abilities. BA believed he had raw power potential, and he showed good power in a workout at PNC Park. Although the writeups at BA and MLB.com sounded rather negative, the fact is that BA rated him as roughly a supplemental first round talent. Immediately after the draft, Grossman said in interviews that he would go to college, but the Pirates eventually signed him the day before the deadline for $1M, which obviously was far above slot money. He still has good, but not great, speed that’s helped by good instincts on the bases. Defensively he might be a little stretched in center. His arm is accurate but not strong.
Debuted briefly in the GCL after signing.
Grossman opened the 2009 season in center for West Virginia. His season was a mixed bag. On the plus side, he hit for a respectable average and drew a lot of walks despite essentially skipping short season ball, which is not easy for high school draftees. He also showed good base stealing ability despite not having great speed. The obvious negative was the frightening strikeout total, better than one every three ABs. Another negative was the fact that he finished the season poorly. After putting up an .872 OPS in June, he registered only .675 after SAL All-Star break. Overall, he hit much better from right side (.897 OPS, with a far lower K rate) than the left (.679). He moved to leftfield when Starling Marte joined the team.
Grossman opened the season as the rightfielder for Bradenton, but moved back to center when Marte went out for hamate surgery. At the plate his season was very similar to 2009, but there were some signs of progress. He dramatically cut his K rate, from his alarming 2009 pace of once every 2.8 ABs to a still high rate of once every 4.0. He also made progress during the season, improving his OPS from .615 before All-Star break to .744 after. He did not, however, start hitting for power. He still hit better from right side, although difference was smaller (.746 to .648). His base stealing dropped off dramatically, both in attempts and success rate.
The Pirates sent Grossman back to Bradenton and he made significant progress, leading all the minors in runs (127) and walks. He was the first minor leaguer to draw 100 walks since Nick Swisher in 2004. He also started to show power, particularly beginning in June. In the season’s last three months, he slugged .502 with ten HRs. On the season, he hit more HRs than he had his first two full years and he set a career high in doubles, which was enough for fourth in the FSL. He reduced his K rate a little more to one every 4.4 ABs, and that’s still some cause for concern. He stole more bases, but got caught too much. He played right all year, moving to center only when Evan Chambers was out.
Grossman’s big 2011 season has to be regarded with some caution, as he was repeating the level. There were a couple of factors in his favor, though. For one, he played the year at 21, which is an appropriate age for high A. For another, a lot of his improvement came with his left-handed swing. A natural right-handed swinger, he began switch-hitting only in his junior year in high school. The Pirates even approached him about the possibility of giving up on switch-hitting, but he wanted to stay with it and, by his own account, became much more comfortable from that side. He’ll be the regular in center for Altoona in 2012; he probably would have finished 2011 there, but the Pirates left him with the Marauders because they were headed for the FSL playoffs. He may not be 100% for a while, though, as he broke a hamate bone in the Arizona Fall League in November. A full recovery from that injury is very likely, but a hitter’s power may be affected for half a year or more afterward. On the plus side, Grossman made a huge impression in the AFL, where he was one of the top hitters at the time of the injury despite the fact that most AFL players have at least reached AA.