The Houston Astros promoted outfield prospect Robbie Grossman to the major league roster this week. He was off to a good start for Triple-A Oklahoma City, hitting .324 with a .452 OBP in his first 19 games. The Astros need talent wherever they can find it, so let's take a look at Grossman as today's Prospect of the Day.
Grossman was a high-profile high school player in Cypress, Texas, entering the 2008 draft season. He got some early-round buzz as a toolsy player with speed and line drive power, but a University of Texas commitment scared teams off and he fell to the sixth round of the draft, where he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates gave him an over-slot $1,000,000 bonus to pass up the Longhorns.
He went directly to the South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old in 2009, hitting .266/.373/.355 in 116 games. His power was disappointing and he fanned 164 times, but he also drew 75 walks and stole 35 bases. He moved up to High-A Bradenton for 2010 and didn't thrive, hitting .245/.344/.345, still showing patience with 66 walks and stealing 15 bases, but not showing as much zip with the bat as scouts thought he would have in high school. His overall level of athleticism also appeared to be slipping a bit.
Grossman returned to Bradenton in 2011 and exploded, hitting .294/.418/.451 with 34 doubles, 13 homers, and 24 steals. He led all of the minor leagues with 104 walks and 127 runs scored. He followed this up with an excellent showing in the Arizona Fall League, although that ended with a broken hamate.
The question entering 2012: was his '11 a genuine breakout, or was it merely a result of repeating the Florida State League?
Grossman got off to a slow start in '12, possibly due to the hamate injury. He gradually heated up, then was traded to the Houston Astros in the Wandy Rodriguez deal. Between Double-A stops at Altoona and Corpus Christi, he hit a combined .266/.376/.410 with 10 homers, 77 walks, and 121 strikeouts last season.
A switch-hitter listed at 6-0, 205, Grossman was born September 16, 1989. He has lost athleticism since high school and shows "tweener" type tools, lacking the ideal power for a corner outfield spot, but not showing the blazing speed scouts prefer in center field or at the top of the lineup. That said, he runs good routes and is hardly a liability: he throws well enough and you could play him at any of the three outfield spots without hurting yourself. He is not a great basestealer, but still runs aggressively and could steal 10-15 bases a year in full-time play, although perhaps not at a good success percentage.
Grossman has some line drive power but won't be a huge home run hitter. His best attribute is patience: he works the strike zone and draws a lot of walks, goosing his on-base percentage. This patience also results in quite a few strikeouts; some scouts believe that he can be too passive at the plate and would produce a higher batting average and perhaps more power with a more aggressive philosophy
The Astros have nothing to lose by playing Grossman and seeing if his approach will continue to produce high OBPs at the major league level. Ultimately he is probably a fourth outfielder, although a fourth outfielder who can play all three positions decently while generating some OBP is valuable.