Name: Ryan Gridley
Height/Weight: 5’9’’, 180
How Acquired: Selected in the 11th round of the 2017 MLB draft.
Over the past few seasons, the Oakland A’s have added several promising middle infielders to their farm system. While Ryan Gridley doesn’t have the same high profile of several others that share his position in the A’s system, the Mississippi State alum showed talent at the plate and in the field in his pro debut. Can he go from under-the-radar to the big leagues over the next few years?
Hampered by bone chips in his left knee, Gridley was considered a glove-first, bat-second player for Mississippi State his first two years of college. After undergoing surgery to remove the chips before his junior season, Gridley emerged as a threat on both sides of the ball, hitting .327/.393/.457 with a career-best six home runs in 67 games for Mississippi State.
Gridley continued to impress offensively during his pro debut season. Despite a late-season slump with the Vermont Lake Monsters that dragged down his average by nearly 30 points, Gridley still finished the year with a .357 OBP, 41 points higher than the New York-Penn League average. He then followed that performance up with a strong showing at the A’s fall Instructional League, where he was the co-winner of the camp’s top honor: the Grinder award.
Defensively, Gridley split his time between second base and shortstop with Vermont. He was sure-handed with the Lake Monsters, committing only five errors in 246 total chances and showing good range at both positions. In an interview with Donald Moore for OaklandClubhouse during the season, A’s minor league defensive coordinator Juan Navarrete praised Gridley’s actions and instincts.
A’s minor league hitting coach Eric Martins liked what he saw from Gridley during Instructs on both sides of the ball.
“I really liked him. He reminds me of a young Bret Boone. We try not to put that comp on him, but he’s small in stature but he’s strong. He’s physical. He takes an aggressive swing and he can drive a baseball,” Martins said. “He’s very versatile. He can play some different positions. He plays with a passion, plays the game hard and plays the game the right way. I like the way the kid gets after it and I think he has a chance to be one of those guys who over-achieves a little bit and gets past certain rungs and levels because of his physicality and his versatility defensively.
“I like the way he gets after it and there are some tools there. He needs to cut down on some things, but he has an aggressive approach and he’s pretty strong, can drive a baseball and plays different positions.”
Several coaches have praised Gridley’s aggressive approach to swinging the bat. Although he is selective in what pitches he goes after, Gridley isn’t cheated when he swings. He hit the ball hard for Vermont in 2017, although 58% of the balls he hit were on the ground. If Gridley can get more of those balls into the air, he should see his slugging percentage rise significantly.
Gridley is below-average height, but he has a muscular build. Now that the knee issues are behind him, Gridley can focus on adding more strength to his lower-half this off-season. That added strength could help him drive more balls in the air and allow him to get more effective jumps on the bases. Gridley has 50 speed and good instincts on the base-paths. His arm is above-average and should allow him to stay at both shortstop and second base. He is also likely to get some time at third base in the next year or two.
Gridley isn’t flashy, but he presents a solid overall skillset that translates well into a utility role in the big leagues. Next season, the A’s may look to keep Gridley on a different roster than fellow 2017 pick Kevin Merrell, starting Gridley off in Beloit and Merrell in Stockton. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gridley make the jump to Stockton sometime in 2018, much like Nate Mondou did in 2017.
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