Robbie Grossman Lives on First Base

Does anyone remember the big to-do about the book Moneyball? It’s a fascinating recounting of how former Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane took advantage of Major League Baseball’s notions about player skillsets to assemble his roster: Beane grabbed guys who would supplement their decent-to-solid tools with an uncanny ability to get on base. It revolutionized the way modern baseball talent is judged, and for a while, teams couldn’t help but copy this blueprint for talent accumulation.

Well, don’t look now but there’s a true-blue Moneyball player taking his bases in Minnesota almost completely unnoticed. 

Robbie Grossman was a pretty well-regarded prospect coming out of high school in Cypress, Texas, but ended up dropping to the 6th round due to concerns he’d take advantage of an offered scholarship to the University of Texas.

The Pirates nabbed him, and this dude posted 35 steals and an ungodly .373 OBP (a 14% walk rate) as a NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD, which was a true portent of things to come. Grossman showed an uncanny knack for getting on base, never having a walk rate below 11% in the minor leagues, with his lowest OBP being .354 in 2015.

In 2012 Grossman was shipped to Houston as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal, yet another example of current Astros GM Jeff Luhnow’s eye for talent. Grossman continued to walk and steal in the minors, elbowing his way up through an extremely crowded Astros system and eventually finding big league at bats…where he continued to walk (’13 and ’14 OBPs of .332 and .337).

For some reasons the Astros let him go after he underperformed in the majors during the 2015 season (with a solid minor league slash of .254/.354/.349), was picked up by the Indians, went bananas in Indianapolis (.256/.370/.453), opted out of his Cleveland minor league pact, and caught on with the Twins.

In 2016 he filled in at all three outfield positions for Minnesota and absolutely jolted their offense with a .384 OBP and a wRC+ of 127. For perspective, his OBP would have ranked 6th in the AL and tied for 13th in the MLB if he qualified and his wRC+ would have tied for 31st in the majors. Did I mention he’s also a switch-hitter who does equally well against lefties and righties (though he tends to clobberize lefties more)?

The Twins have decided to get his bat into the lineup as frequently as possible, despite his steals not translating too well or his defensive stank (seriously, he’s got some negative UZRs in the outfield). This is great news for the folks who own Grossman in fantasy leagues, and REALLY great news for the Twins offense in real life.

And, speaking frankly, it’s really f***ing great that he’s doing all this and being rewarded with playing time. He’s a guy who is everything you’d want in a top-of-the-order hitter, a guy who will get on base and be a quality baserunner. He’s exactly the kind of guy Beane would covet, and any fantasy manager in an OBP league (y’know, the superior kind of fantasy league) should trip over their dog running to pick him up if he’s available.

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