Grichuk Caught in Trout's Shadow; Blame it on Rockies Interest in Drafting Him

© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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Randal Grichuk is spending the weekend at Coors Field, hanging out in the visitors clubhouse with the rest of the Toronto Blue Jays, just like he did from 2015-17 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Oh, what could have been.

Grichuk was the player the Angels selected No. 24 overall in the 2009 draft, just ahead of selecting Mike Trout with the No. 25 pick.

And it was the Rockies who prompted Eddie Bane, then the Angels scouting director and now a special assistant to the Red Sox, to make the decision to draft Grichuk that early. It put Grichuk in an uncomfortable position, admitted Bane, having everything he did compared to the accomplishments of Trout, who became a close friend and a teammate in both the minor leagues and big leagues.

Bane knew the Angels were going to take Trout in the first round of that draft. Other teams downplayed Trout’s ability, but the Angels had him rated as the best player in the draft. They also knew that Trout’s agent was telling teams his client was going to get a deal well above slot money.

Bane, however, new how to dampen that idea. With the 24th and 25th picks, he was going to take another player No. 24, and then quickly explain to Trout’s agent, he could not pay the 25th player selected in the draft more than the 24th.

Bane had three players under consideration for that 24th pick. Grichuk and left-handed pitcher Tyler Skaggs, and right-handed pitcher Garrett Richards.

And he knew that “every time we had a scout watch Grichuk, the Rockies' area scout, Chris Forbes, was there and he really liked Grichuk. I knew if we were going to get him we couldn’t wait until our two sandwich picks, which were the 40th and 42nd picks, if we wanted Grichuk because the Rockies had two sandwich picks, too, and they were ahead of us at 32 and 34.”

Bane decided to gamble on losing a pitcher so he wouldn’t lose Grichuk. He won that gamble. Not only did the Angels get Grichuk, but they landed Skaggs with the 40th selection in the draft and Richards with the 42nd.

Trout moved quickly through the minor leagues and debuted with the Angels at the age of 19 in 2011. He won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012. He opened this season at the age of 27 a seven-time All-Star who won AL MVP Awards in 2014 and '16, finished second in the voting four times and fourth once.

Grichuk, meanwhile, spent five full seasons in the Minor Leagues before a November 2013 trade to the Cardinals led to a 47-game introduction to the big leagues in '14. He became a regular for the Cards the following season, playing a splendid center field and showing his power potential with 17 home runs in 2015 and 24 last year.

Acquired by the Blue Jays for the 2018 season, he is now in the first year of a five-year, $52 million deal. It’s not Trout money (he set an MLB record in the spring with a 12-year, $426.5 million deal.

Not that Grichuk is keeping track.

He has always downplayed the talk about his draft status, and Trout. His focus was on what he needed to do to be successful in the big leagues.
"That never bothered me," he has said about Trout’s emergence as the Face of MLB. "I just knew I needed to stay on the field."

And that was a challenge early on. Three injuries limited Grichuk to 117 games combined in his first two years at Class A Advanced. He tore a ligament in his thumb 12 games into 2010, then he broke his wrist diving for a fly ball after his return. In '11, Grichuk opened the season sidelined by a fractured kneecap, suffered when he fouled a ball off the knee during Spring Training.

Bane, however, admits the unfair expectations had to weigh on Grichuk.

"It is human nature for a competitor to prove things, and he may have gotten out of doing what he does best," said Bane. "But he got himself back to doing what Randal Grichuk is capable of doing, and Randal Grichuk is capable of doing plenty."

Grichuk has certainly done more than 18 of the 23 players taken ahead of him in that 2009 Draft. Six of them never got to the big leagues, and 12 of them have a lower career WAR than the 9.5 of Grichiuk.