Name: Chris Grayson
DOB: September 15, 1989
Acquired: 2011 Amateur Draft, 13th round
The 2011 draft was a busy one for Rangers Carolinas/Eastern Tennessee area scout Chris Kemp; the former Rangers farmhand was responsible for scouting and signing seven picks, ranging between the second and 48th rounds.
Of that group, it's two of the under-the-radar guys who appeared on this year's Lone Star Dugout Top 50 Prospects list: 48th-round pick RHP C.J. Edwards and 13th-round pick OF Chris Grayson.
Selected from Lee University in the NAIA ranks, Grayson was somewhat of an unknown commodity despite being a good athlete with excellent speed. In addition to playing at a small school, he spent the vast majority of his junior 2011 campaign as the team's designated hitter––not playing in the outfield. He did impress at the plate, however, hitting .364 with 11 doubles, 11 triples, and five home runs.
Upon signing with Texas, the 6-foot-0, 190-pound Grayson was assigned to the rookie-level Arizona League, where he impressed from the outset. Grayson established himself as a sleeper prospect worth watching, hitting .288/.323/.424 in 48 games while flashing easy plus speed with a quick bat.
The Louisiana native earned a spot on the Single-A Hickory roster out of camp last season, and he immediately turned a few more heads by posting a .400/.500/.675 slash line in 21 April contests. Although he didn't quite match that production the remainder of the year, he still posted a solid .249/.360/.423 line in 126 games between Hickory and High-A Myrtle Beach. Overall, Grayson socked 28 doubles, six triples, and 13 home runs. He also drew 70 walks and fanned 117 times while swiping 34 bases in 42 tries.
After seeing so much action at DH as a collegiate player, Grayson has split his time between all three outfield spots since signing with the Rangers.
Hitting and Power: A lefty hitter with a quick bat and feel for the strike zone, Grayson doesn't project as an impact hitter but has the potential to provide some offensive contribution. Although he's got the bat speed to catch up with plus velocity, he has a bit of a long swing hitch that could lead to issues against advanced secondary stuff. As a result, Grayson's hit tool is fringy, and he'll likely always have some swing and miss in his game. With a patient approach and that aforementioned feel for the zone, he should also draw his share of walks at any level. The raw power is below-average, but his quick hands and strength lead to decent gap pop with the ability to knock the occasional ball over the fence. One scout who saw Grayson in 2012 pointed out that, given his overall profile, the prospect may be best served staying short in his swing with a gap-to-gap approach, hitting the ball on the ground more often to utilize his excellent wheels. Grayson can get a bit long and fly ball-happy at times.
Base Running and Speed: Perhaps the most important weapon in Grayson's toolbox is his speed; he's a borderline plus-plus runner and should maintain it. The left-handed hitter gets out of the box quickly and can cause trouble for infielders when he puts the ball on the ground. On the base paths, he couples the raw speed with decent instincts, stealing 34 bases in 42 attempts between the two levels last season.
Defense: An average defender in a corner, Grayson has some of the tools necessary to be above-average but needs work; he has excellent speed to cover ground but must refine his route-running and off-the-bat reads. While the left-hander improved his throwing mechanics and accuracy last season, he has below-average (40-grade) arm strength that profiles best in left field. Grayson still doesn't have a ton of experience in the outfield and ideally will still develop a bit more. He should provide some versatility at full maturity, being serviceable in center and right in a pinch, but he'll always be best served in left field.
Projection: Grayson projects as a reserve outfield-type who can impact games with his speed and provide a little contribution with his bat off the bench. The 23-year-old will need to continue refining his all-around game, particularly in the outfield. If Grayson ultimately shows he can play a solid center field, his total package with outfield versatility may make him an attractive option on a big league bench; if not, he'll have little margin for error as primarily a left fielder.
2013 Outlook: After finishing the 2012 campaign with a 27-game stint at High-A Myrtle Beach, Grayson will likely return to the Carolina League out of camp this season. He scuffled down the stretch with the Pelicans last year, hitting .178/.308/.311 with 16 walks and 25 strikeouts. As always, it's important to remember that the pitcher-friendly circuit––and Myrtle Beach in particular––is rarely kind to hitters' numbers and often doesn't outwardly reflect true development. Grayson will play the entire 2013 season at 23 years of age and could finish the year in Double-A if he performs well. Expect him to continue seeing time at all three outfield spots, as the Rangers hope to improve his game in center and expand his versatility.
|2011||AZL Rangers (RK)||.288||177||8||2||30||34||17/22||9||32||.323||.424|
|Myrtle Beach (A+)||.178||90||3||3||7||14||7/7||16||25||.308||.311|