The 2016 list of Super Two eligible players has been released and Justin Grimm is the lone Cubs qualifier. If you’ve forgotten what Super Two means, you can read about it here. In short, the top 22% of players with between two and three years of service time (and at least 86 days on a 25 man roster/disabled list) are referred to as “Super Two” eligible and can enter arbitration prior to reaching their third year of service. In sum, a Super Two player will get four years of arbitration, instead of just three. This doesn’t change the length of control a team has over a any player, but it does increase the expected salary for each of the remaining years on their contract (arbitration hearings take past salary earnings into consideration).
All in all, Grimm’s eligibility is no big deal – as in, the expected raise over the next few years won’t change any other roster plans – and it was expected, but it is a well-earned development for him. Looking back on his past two seasons with the Cubs, Grimm’s performance has been rather interesting.
In 2014, Grimm had a break out performance, throwing 69 innings out of the bullpen, finishing with a 3.78/3.20/3.63 ERA/FIP/xFIP and dominating in the second half, in particular. As a former starter, Grimm was able to increase the velocity of his primary pitches and eliminate the secondary stuff that wasn’t quite working for him. As a starter-turned-reliever, Grimm is the poster child for stuff “playing up” out of the pen.
Coming into 2015, then, he was counted on as one of the primary relievers that could setup late in the game, or come in early and wiggle out of a jam. Unfortunately, he suffered a forearm injury in Spring Training, and didn’t come back until early May. From his return to the pen in May up until August 15, though, Grimm was lights out. He maintained a 1.34/2.15/2.21 ERA/FIP/xFIP, while striking out an absurd 36.6% of batters faced.
From that point on, though, things weren’t as consistent, and you probably remember it.
From mid-August, until the end of the season, Grimm had a 3.12/4.75/4.53 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash. He was running into some unpredictable bad luck with a 58.6% LOB% and a 13.3% HR/FB rate, but there were some obvious control issues. His walk rate, which was already just so-so, shot up to an almost unusable 17.3%, just as his strikeout rate came back down to earth, settling at 26.7%. To my eye, he still had the stuff, he just wasn’t able to command anything early, making it hard to wipe out batters later in the at bat.
It felt as though he may have turned a corner late in the season – he didn’t give up a run in his final 5 appearances, and struck-out four batters, walking none, in his two post-season innings – but we should avoid cherry picking short stretches of success (or failure).
Despite an up and down year that started with an injury, I think you’d be hard-pressed not to consider 2015 a success. Grimm still has a lot of raw, natural talent, with very solid velocity and has found a lot of success, on the whole, over the past two seasons. Given that MLB Trade Rumors projects just a $1.0M salary in 2016, Grimm looks, once again, like a solid, young, affordable bullpen option with plenty of remaining upside.