When no one was looking, A.J. Preller might have found his center fielder of the future.
For all the wheeling and dealing the Padres' general manager did this offseason, the addition of Trent Grisham garnered little fanfare. It might end up being Preller’s most impactful move of the bunch.
Grisham was a corner outfielder in Milwaukee, blocked in center by Lorenzo Cain. But during Spring Training this year, the businesslike 23-year-old quietly asserted himself as the Padres' top option in center field. One week into the 2020 season, it’s not so quiet anymore.
Grisham has been a standout as the Padres have raced out to a 5-2 start to the season. He's hitting .296/.387/.630 with four extra-base hits.
During his tenure in Milwaukee, questions lingered about whether Grisham was too selective at the plate, perhaps costing him pitches to hit. But through the first week of this season, Grisham has struck a seemingly perfect balance.
He has swung at only 9.5 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, according to FanGraphs, which ranks third in the Majors behind Max Muncy and Yandy Díaz. But when Grisham swings, he does damage. He homered on Monday and Wednesday, and in an extra-inning victory Thursday, he doubled and tripled.
"That's one of the reasons that we wanted to acquire him so bad throughout the offseason," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "That's a really good skill set to have. At the age he’s at, we expect it to grow and get better."
Grisham didn't come cheap. The Padres sent infielder Luis Urías and starting pitcher Eric Lauer to Milwaukee in the deal, which also netted them starting pitcher Zach Davies. But Grisham is only 23 and under team contractual control through at least 2025. Throw in the fact he seems like a viable long-term center fielder, and his value shoots through the roof.
Grisham is an excellent athlete with very good hand-eye coordination and above-average speed. But the primary reason the Padres are comfortable with him in center is the jump he gets. Take his sprawling robbery of Evan Longoria on Thursday, for instance. Grisham covered 70 feet in four seconds, completing a play with a 15 percent catch probability. His jump was a remarkable 7.3 feet better than the league average.
That's not a fluke. Statcast quantifies an outfielder's "jump" as the number of feet covered in the correct direction during the first three seconds after contact. Grisham's stint in the big leagues was brief last season, but he was 3.4 feet better than the league’s average jump on fly balls. Among players with at least 10 chances, that was fifth best in the Majors.
"I've blended in well with this group," Grisham said Monday. "A lot of good guys, a lot of good veteran leadership. They make it really easy to fit in."
Hosmer travels, out of lineup
Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has been battling a gastrointestinal issue, traveled with the team to Colorado but was not in the lineup for the series opener on Friday night.
Hosmer's illness, which is not COVID-related, according to team doctors, has sidelined him for five of the Padres' first eight games this season.
"Unfortunately, he was not feeling well this morning," Tingler said. "... He's with the training staff, the medical team. We're just hoping he gets better. It's just miserable being sick."
Tingler added that Hosmer was feeling better on Thursday night, but the Padres opted to keep him out of the lineup, anyway. In three games, he has reached base seven times in 12 plate appearances with a homer and seven RBIs.
"He's been honestly our best, most consistent at-bat when he's in there," Tingler said. "He's come up at the right moments, given great at-bats. He's driven guys in. He's been in the mix of a lot of good things."
Tingler eyes bullpen bounce-back
The Padres spent the offseason building a bullpen they hoped was regression-proof. But through the season's first week, San Diego relievers have combined for a 5.08 ERA, ranked 20th in the Majors.
"There's been heavy expectations on them," Tingler said. “Sometimes you put a little bit of pressure and things like that. We just need them to be themselves. We just need them to relax and be the aggressor. ... I feel confident that we're going to do that. The beautiful thing about this game is it could be as early as tonight."