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Meet The New Guy: Vaughn Grissom

The Sox have a second baseman

Who is he and where did he come from?

He’s Vaughn Grissom and he comes from suburban Orlando (aw, tough break, kid) where he played Robin to Riley Greene’s Batman on the high school baseball team. The Red Sox just acquired him in a one-to-one trade, sending Chris Sale, one of the best pitchers of this generation, to the Atlanta Braves. Normally, being on the other end of a trade for a Hall of Fame-level talent isn’t easy. But, in this case, given that the Hall of Fame-level talent has done more damage to the Polar Park clubhouse than to opposing lineups over the last four years, this trade feels like something of a palate cleanser.

What position does he play?

Right up until he was traded to the Sox, this question was very much up in the air. Grissom spent the majority of his time in the minors at shortstop, though he also saw time at second and third. When Atlanta’s starting shortstop Orlando Arcia went down with an injury early in the 2023 season, Grissom was the guy who took over as the captain of the infield on the left side. Unfortunately, though, his glove did not impress, as he showed limited range and a relatively weak arm for a shortstop. Arcia reclaimed the job a month later and would be named an All-Star shortly thereafter.

This put Grissom’s future with the Braves in doubt, as Atlanta’s second and third basemen are also all-stars (hot damn, the Bravos are loaded), and Grissom spent some time in the Puerto Rican league this winter playing in the corner outfield to try to squeeze his way into the lineup. This is why the Braves and Red Sox were such good trading partners on this deal: the Sox desperately needed a second baseman, and Grissom plugs the hole.

Is he any good?

Grissom’s Major League career up to this point consists of just two abbreviated stints, one of which went a lot better than the other. So the truthful answer to this question is: we’re about to find out. But based on his minor league track record, Sox fans have plenty of reasons to be excited.

After being drafted in the 11th round in 2019 and missing all of 2020 due to the pandemic, Grissom proceeded to absolutely fly up the minor league ladder, putting up outstanding offensive numbers at every stop (his career minor league slash line is .320/.407/.477 in 329 games). In 2022, the Braves promoted him the Majors directly from AA. He had moved so quickly through the system that he didn’t even have time to make most top-100 prospect lists (which are typically updated only a couple times a year).

HIs 2022 stint in the Majors went really well, as he put up a .291/.353/.440 line with 5 homers in 41 games, playing second base almost exclusively, and he came to Spring Training the following season as the favorite to break camp as the Braves’ starting shortstop. But, given the concerns about his glove and the fact that the Braves had plenty of offensive firepower elsewhere their lineup, they ended up giving the job to the sure-fielding Arcia instead.

When Grissom got a chance to fill-in for the injured Arcia in 2023, things didn’t go as well as they had the year before. We’ve already discussed the defensive issues he had at short, but he was significantly worse with the bat, as well. He really struggled to put the ball in the air, with a 59% groundball rate that would have been the second-highest in all of baseball had he qualified. His walk rate also plummeted, as he chased too many pitches outside of the zone (particularly breaking and offspeed stuff).

The good news is, though, that those issues don’t really line up with his minor league track record, indicating that he probably just faced the same troubles that most 22-year-olds do as they transition to the Majors. In fact, he proceeded to dominate AAA pitching upon his subsequent demotion; his walks and line drives went back up while the grounders went back down, and he had a 45-game on-base streak at one point. He finished 2023 with the fifth-best batting average and OBP in the International league, the sixth-lowest strikeout rate, and a 135 wRC+, good for fourth in the league.

He hasn’t shown much home run power yet, but he’s a big kid, suggesting that it could be coming as he fills out. And even if the power never does impress, his bat-to-ball skills should be good enough to make him an above-average big league hitter. The best case scenario for Grissom is someone who hits .300, puts up OBPs close to .400, and pops 15-20 homers while playing average second base defense.

Show me a cool highlight.

Interestingly enough, Grissom may have already experienced the biggest moment he’ll ever have at Fenway Park, because that’s where he deposited a ball onto Lansdowne Street for his first career hit in his first career game:

What’s he doing in his picture up there?

Showing off what is now probably the best tattoo on the Red Sox.

What’s his role on the 2024 Red Sox?

Health permitting, he’s going to be the starting second baseman on Opening Day. That doesn’t mean he’s definitely going to hold onto that position all season — we should all expect some defensive hiccups given that he barely played second in the minors, and it might take some time for his bat to bounce back to 2022 levels. But his fringe All-Star upside is significantly higher than that of the Sox’ other second base candidates: Pablo Reyes, Enmanuel Valdez, or David Hamilton. The Sox are going to give him every opportunity to seize the job for next season and for several seasons to come.