Cadyn Grenier had as long a college baseball season with national champion Oregon State as anyone who turned pro this summer, and that was just the beginning of the challenge for the Orioles’ second overall draft pick.
Grenier skipped rookie ball entirely and was sent to Low-A Delmarva, where the Orioles set about showing one of their prized new assets what would be required for him to develop as quickly as hoped.
“He’s kind of having to raise his game right out of the chute, and now it’s something where he can get an idea of what to expect going into the offseason to prepare for what’s ahead of him, as opposed to going somewhere and maybe dominating right away,” Delmarva manager Buck Britton said late last month. “It can kind of keep him hungry, I guess, and understand that you might have been at a certain level in college, but there’s a new gear that you’ve got to get to.”
By all accounts, Grenier got to that level as the season wound down. A standout defender at Oregon State who answered many questions about his bat this spring by batting .319 with an .870 OPS and 25 extra-base hits for the Beavers, Grenier entered pro ball as a shortstop still better known for his glove than his bat.
That reputation seemed founded as the No. 37 overall selection hit .181 with four doubles in his first month for the Shorebirds. But there’s been progress of late. Grenier entered Monday’s season season finale batting .305 (18-for-59) in his past 16 games, raising his season line to .217/.295/.338.
“The last two weeks, he’s been really good,” director of player development Brian Graham said. “The last two weeks, he seems to be recognizing strikes better. He seems to have a better feel for the strike zone. He seems to be using the whole field better, and again, it comes with experience. The more you see good pitching, and the more you see good hitters … if you have the talent and the skill level, then the majority of the time, you’re going to improve. I like where Grenier is at right now.”
It’s been a process to get to this point. Before a recent scheduled game against Rome, he was among the first hitters to do early work with coaches Bobby Rose and Cam Kneeland, trying to maintain some of the adjustments he’s made to his swing.
He’s had to adapt to the new pitchers in Low-A ball and some of the information gaps on opposing pitchers he didn’t need to deal with at Oregon State. But what he can control is his consistency.
“That was one of the things I was working on in college, where I would take a really, really good swing one at-bat, and the next at-bat, it wouldn’t be the same swing because something would happen with my body or whatever,” Grenier said. “That’s something I’ve been working on a lot here, just getting into a position to hit where my swing can be more repeatable. When I do that, the swing is great. The more you can take that ‘A’ swing, as we call it, you want to do that as much as possible. That gives you the highest chance to succeed.”
“For him, he’s got a knack and he recognizes pitches really well,” Britton said. “He recognizes the breaking ball. For him, it was being a little shorter to the ball. He was getting a little big with his swing, and we kind of shortened him up a little bit, just to make him quicker to the ball. Because here, the velocity is something, he admitted, you don’t go out there and see 95 [mph] every night in college. …
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“So being consistent with his swing and shortening his swing a little bit, so he could allow himself to have a little more barrel accuracy to the ball, he’s been impressive the last couple weeks, how fast he’s adapted to that. I know, his overall numbers, you look and say, ‘Eh, that’s not too good.’ But if you’re seeing it day in and day out, there’s some strides that he’s made that have been pretty impressive.”
Graham said Grenier got “a great experience” to carry into the Orioles’ fall instructional league this month.
Such adjustments — and simply learning that they’d need to be made — seem to have been the primary focus of his assignment to Delmarva. The Orioles’ assessment of his standout defense has been confirmed, with Britton and Graham praising his arm strength, footwork and range at the position.
“He has the tools,” Graham said.
Grenier’s approach on defense has also helped mitigate some of his early frustrations at the plate — and some of the struggles that come with flying across the country to continue the longest season of his life.
“That’s why I try to really anchor down over at shortstop while I’m working through these mechanical, offensive things,” Grenier said. “I know that I might not have a good day at the plate, but I know I’m going to play good defense, and that’s one of those things where you go, ‘OK, you know you’re going to get a good defender out there,’ and as it’s come along this season, I’m starting to hit again. Having the defense to go along with the offense obviously makes a much more complete player.”