Prospect Retro: Mark Grudzielanek
Mark Grudzielanek was drafted in the 11th round in 1991, by the Montreal Expos out of Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado. He fell in the draft because most teams were concerned that they would bust their uniform budget on outfitting him. Assigned to Jamestown in the New York-Penn League, he hit .262/.313/.338 in 72 games, with 14 steals. Decent but not spectacular performance. He'd rate as a Grade C at the time.
Promoted to Rockford in the Midwest League in 1992, he hit just .246/.285/.321with 25 steals. At this point, Grudz was showing good speed and promising defensive ability, but his career average hovered just over .250, without much power and just mediocre on-base skills. He was 22 years old, and would generously be considered a Grade C prospect.
Moved up West Palm Beach in the Florida State League in 1993, Grudz raised his batting average to .267, with 17 steals in 86 games, but his other numbers remained unimpressive: .315 OBP, .353 SLG. At age 23.....again, that's a Grade C at best.
Everything changed in 1994. Grudz hit .322/.382/.477 in 122 games for Double-A Harrisburg. His walk rate increased dramatically. His power spiked....37 doubles, 11 homers. His batting average jumped up almost 60 points. He was named Eastern League MVP. In the 1995 Minor League Scouting Notebook, Eddie Epstein gave Grudz a B+ and traced the dramatic improvement in his performance to better strike zone judgment.
Could he keep this up?
Grudz moved up to Triple-A in 1995, hitting .298 in 49 games. He then hit .245/.300/316 in 78 games for the Expos, showing athleticism and some speed but poor plate discipline. He followed that up by hitting .306 in 153 games in 1996, and has been a major league regular ever since.
He's developed into a player capable of hitting over .300 in a good year, though his power production is often marginal and his walk rate is low enough that his OBP suffers if his batting average drops too far below .300. He's had a fine career, certainly better than you would expect considering his minor league performance in 1991, 1992, and 1993.