Due to injuries in the starting rotation for the Texas Rangers (who were due for this kind of injury run, as they stayed absolutely healthy to start the season), Justin Grimm will make a start on Saturday against the Astros. Grimm was the 5th round pick of the Rangers in 2010 and made his AA debut to start 2012 (he hasn’t pitched a single AAA inning). Grimm pitched for the University of Georgia for 3 years prior to being drafted, and started out in class A Hickory in 2011 with instant success. At Hickory he struck out over a batter an inning and had a FIP of 3.60 (.645 OPS against and 3.26 SIERA).
To get a look at Grimm, I watched his start on May 24th against the Tulsa Drillers (the Rockies AA). On MiLB.TV, Frisco’s camera angle isn’t the typical centerfield camera, so it doesn’t really allow you to pick up things like how the pitches break. He started the game locating the fastball down and immediately gave up a bad luck ground-ball single. He was hitting 91 MPH and was getting whiffs when he threw it high in the zone. His first breaking ball was a curve with some pretty good loop. He actually hung it, but it turned into an easy double play. He then got a foul ball pop up to first base to end the first. In the next at-bat, he fell behind 2-0 after throwing a fastball high and a pitch in the dirt. He came back to throw 2 good fastballs on the inside then the outside corner that the hitter couldn’t even pull the trigger on. He bounced a breaking ball before throwing a pitch down and in for a weak ground-ball out. He could throw a low sort of moving fastball out of the zone, and while it looked like a decent pitch, it wasn’t fooling any hitters, it simply wasn’t close enough to the zone most of the time. The curve has nice break on it and he got a big swing and a miss on one way out of the zone when he was actually down in the count to the 2nd hitter of the 2nd inning. He got another ground-ball on a curve in the strikezone. He then got the next hitter to chase 2 curves way out of the zone to strikeout, ending the 2nd. He started the 3rd with 2 straight fastballs that the hitter was only able to foul back. After bouncing a curve, he threw another curve that was out of the zone but it was hit for a ground-ball hit. Another curve turned into a broken bat liner to 2nd for an out, before a long at-bat with some fouls turned into a bad play by 3rd baseman Mike Olt on a ground-ball. He responded by getting another ground-ball, this time to himself and he got a double play with a lot of help from Jurickson Profar. The 4th started with a single to RF before a high and away fastball was hit for a fly-ball to left for out number 1. He then got a looking strikeout on a fastball down and away in the zone. He then powered a fastball up to the next hitter and blew him away for a swing and miss strikeout. The 5th started with an infield fly-out, but a fastball down the middle was hit hard to center for a single. After a steal, Grimm gave up another pretty well hit single but got another infield fly-ball. He then got a big whiff on his curveball, gave up a few fouls in a long at-bat, shattered a bat, and got a swinging strikeout on the curveball. After an easy 6th, he was still hitting 92 MPH on the fastball and he threw one high for a swing and miss strikeout (his 5th of the game). His curve was about 80 MPH, and he was throwing it both in and out of the strikezone and getting swings and misses with it. In the 7th, he threw a couple really wild ones to make it 3-2 before a relatively deep fly-ball turned into an out. He then hit 94 MPH, but was losing the feel on the curveball. His changeup was only thrown occasionally, and it looked pretty mediocre, without a lot of movement or whiffs. He threw a curve in the dirt that the hitter couldn’t check his swing on, ending a 7 inning scoreless performance (with no walks!) for Grimm.
Keith Law is much higher on Grimm’s changeup than I am, calling it “average to above average”. He calls his velocity above average (which we saw) and that his control is ahead of his command (simply meaning that Grimm is better at throwing strikes than throwing quality strikes). A pitcher that has better command than he has control probably doesn’t exist, as control is usually a prerequisite for command. However, when I saw him, it looked like Grimm was having some control issues, with some really off pitches, but he threw very little in the middle of the plate. Jason Cole of Lone Star Dugout, a scout.com website focused on the Rangers’ organization, says he has a number 3 starter ceiling. According to Cole, he has touched 96 MPH and has just recently added the 2-seamer, explaining why it didn’t look very good and thrown sparingly. Don’t expect to see it much against the Astros. Cole also pointed out the inconsistency in the curve, and said it breaks more like a slurve (he also likes Grimm’s change like Law).
In AA Frisco, Grimm threw 77 innings and had a 2.55 FIP and 3.19 SIERA along with an expected OPS (using K/BB/GB/LD/FB rates as I’ve done here and here) of .613 (league average is .721 in the Texas League!). With the absolute incompetence of prospects Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez, Grimm, the 15th best prospect in the Rangers’ system according to Baseball America, was the logical choice if the Rangers were going to bring someone up (the other choice would have been to use Robbie Ross, a player that I was absolutely wrong on it appears, as a starter). Grimm is perfect for a starting rotation in the sense that he has absolutely no platoon splits. In AA, lefties were hitting .216/.250/.297 off the righty while right-handers were hitting .216/.255/.300. Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote after his first AA start, “Grimm has plenty of stuff to succeed at the big league level.”