Grichuk Plays Catch-Up In AFL





PHOENIX—Having turned 21 toward the end through the 2012 regular season, Angels prospect Randal Grichuk was at an age-appropriate level with high Class A Inland Empire of the California League, especially considering the injuries he suffered during the previous two seasons. But his progress often gets overlooked because of the success of other members of the Angels' 2009 draft class.

Grichuk was the first of six picks the Angels had in the first two rounds that year, with four of those players having already made their major league debuts. Most notable among that plethora of prospects is Mike Trout, who was Baseball America's Major League Player and Rookie of the Year after his outstanding 2012 season with the Angels. Trout was drafted in the first round (25th overall), one pick after Grichuk. Supplemental first-round picks Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards and second-round choice Pat Corbin have also made the big leagues, with Skaggs and Corbin now with the Diamondbacks.

Grichuk doesn't let the success of his draft classmates affect him. He and Trout are very good friends who will room together in spring training.

"I just try to focus on me and not focus on what he's doing, because it's not me," Grichuk said. "I've been on the tough road—I've been injured for two years . . . You've got to go out there and play hard."

Like Trout last year at this time, Grichuk is continuing his development in the Arizona Fall League with the Scottsdale Scorpions. He's batting .256/.302/.359 in the AFL after a solid season in the Cal League in which he overcame a slow start to finish with solid numbers at .298/.335/.488, with 18 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 537 at-bats.

What is most important about Grichuk's 2012 season is that it was the first time he exceeded 100 games played. He lost time in 2010 with a torn thumb ligament and later a broken wrist, followed by separate injuries to both knees that delayed the start of his 2011 season. While he missed a lot of development time during the multiple injuries, the time off strengthened Grichuk in other ways.

"Being injured is a lot of time thinking and a lot of time doing some soul searching about what's happening," Grichuk said. "I feel it just made me a stronger person mentally and physically. I got out there and I was hungry . . . I was ready to go."

Acknowledging a slow start to his 2012 season, Grichuk was pleased with the improvements he made during the course of the year.

"The second half I came on strong because I just got within myself," Grichuk said, "and stopped trying to do too much . . . just trying to get the bat head to the ball and square up pitches, and actually tried having a better feel for the zone and not chasing too much. (I was) just trying to be more pitch selective."

Some scouts covering the AFL question whether Grichuk has the skills to develop into a major league hitter. According to one National League scout, "His grooved swing doesn't allow him to make many adjustments to secondary (pitches), and higher level pitching will expose that." Scouts also point out Grichuk's tendency to try to pull everything to the left side.

Scorpions hitting coach Phil Clark, who coached at the Indians' Triple-A affiliate in 2012, likes what he's seen from Grichuk during the month they've worked together this fall.

"He's got major league hands," Clark said. "Randal is a strong kid. He's got some lightning hands that anyone would get excited about. For Randal, it's just a matter of getting his balance and getting his body in position to adjust."

As for Grichuk's reputation as a pull hitter, Clark added, "Part of his (batting practice) routine every day is using the other field. He's taking that ball middle and driving it the other way and not relying on pull side. That's good for a young ballplayer to start being aware of pitch location and where to hit it. That's a big key for him in itself."

Grichuk's defensive improvements might be more notable. He was limited to left field when he started his pro career in 2009, as both his arm and speed were considered fringy when he signed. Grichuk has worked hard on defense, and his range and arm now grade as at least average tools, enough to allow him to stay in right field.

"I came out early for my first spring training and worked with Eric Owens, our outfield rover," Grichuk said. "We worked on having arm accuracy, arm strength and feet work in the outfield. That helped me and I've been doing little drills like that."

Grichuk added that he's continuing the same workouts each offseason and also worked this summer with current Angels outfielder coordinator, Tyrone Boykin, who was Grichuk's Rookie league manager during his first pro season.

"The one thing he's improved on is getting jumps off the bat and getting to balls sooner," Boykin said. "He was a click behind at first. We worked on that for him to get a quicker jump on the ball."

Boykin has also seen the improvement in Grichuk's arm strength since his first season.

"He always had a decent arm but it's gotten stronger," Boykin said. "What stands out is he's gotten more accurate. He gets good carry and backspin when he throws it."

Grichuk is hoping to move up to the Angels' Double-A Arkansas affiliate in 2013, which will put him closer to his Rosenberg, Texas, hometown.

"My parents are all excited about me starting out there and getting to go to Corpus Christi and San Antonio," Grichuk said. "It's not that far of a drive for them."

FALL GUYS

• Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was honored as the latest inductee into the AFL Hall of Fame prior to the Friday night game at Scottsdale Stadium. Teixeira, who played for the Peoria Javelinas in 2002 while a member of the Rangers organization, was on hand for the ceremony. He delivered one of the better motivational acceptance speeches of any recent inductee, addressing players from both the Scorpions and the visiting Salt River Rafters about the need for self-confidence as they continue their baseball careers. The switch-hitting Teixeira had one of the best AFL debuts in the 20-year history of the league when he went 5 for 5 in his first game with home runs from both sides of the plate.

• Salt River third baseman Matt Davidson (Diamondbacks) has been on the sidelines since Oct. 19 due to the effects of a concussion suffered when he took a bad hop grounder to the head. The 21-year-old righthanded hitter has resumed workouts and said he expects to return to action this week.

• Brewers outfielder Josh Prince, who also still plays some infield, wasn't involved in the Rising Stars Game but is dominating the league. Prince ranks second in batting and on-base percentage while leading the AFL in slugging with his .443/.521/.623 line in 61 at-bats. He's 6-for-9 stealing bases and leads the league with 17 runs.