It isn't often trades at the Major League level decimate a Class A roster, but when the D-Backs shipped right-hander Jhoan Duran and outfielders Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel to the Twins for Eduardo Escobar, Kane County was without its scheduled starting pitcher and two top-of-the-order hitters.
Fortunately, Ryan Grotjohn was there to pick up the slack.
The D-backs prospect slugged his first Minor League grand slam and drove in a career-high seven runs to lead Class A Kane County to a 13-6 triumph over Beloit on Friday at Northwestern Medicine Field.
Gameday box score
"Situationalally, he was awesome," Kane County hitting coach Rick Short said. "As far as hitting-wise, he's done a great job with his swing. He does a great job using the whole field. ... Whenever you're covering the both sides of the plate as a hitter, you're in great shape and that's kind of where he's at right now."
Grotjohn lifted a sacrifice fly to left field in the third inning that got the Cougars within 3-2 and plated Luis Silverio with another sacrifice fly in a three-run fifth. In the seventh, he doubled to left on the first pitch he saw from Seth Martinez, scoring Lazaro Armenteros and Silverio.
The Cal State-Bakersfield product broke the game open with the bases loaded in the eighth against Joseph Camacho, sending the right-hander's first pitch over the fence in right.
"I was just trying to be on time for the fastball," Grotjohn said of the slam. "I was trying to see a ball up and put it in the air. I saw it up and I put a pretty good swing on it. I was pretty excited. First-ever grand slam I've hit in my life."
Video: Grotjohn crushes grand slam for Cougars
The left-handed bat has developed a reputation as a utility player for the Cougars, playing both corner outfield spots and all four infield positions. It's something Grotjohn was accustomed to in his first two seasons in college before becoming the team's full-time shortstop as a junior.
"I've always been that player who can bounce around and play a lot of different positions," he said. "But it's fun. I like getting to play all the different positions -- it gets a little tedious playing the same position over and over again. I think it's fun and it gives me a better opportunity to play if I can play multiple positions, it opens up more doors for me."
"When we broke during Spring Training, we kind of had a need in the outfield and we stuck him out there and he's done a great job," Short said.
Grotjohn's athletic background helps. The 23-year-old played both soccer and baseball at an elite level through high school. He was a four-year letterman in soccer and won two Arizona high school state titles on the pitch, played on Serreno, one of the country's top youth clubs, and participated in the Olympic Development Program, which allowed to play in a 200-team tournament in Spain.
"I loved it," Grotjohn said of his soccer career. "Soccer is so much footwork and quick little bursts, I think it helps me with my footwork in the infield and my athleticism. ... I think it just helped with my overall abilities on the field."
Grotjohn said there was little thought as to what sport he wanted to pursue moving forward as baseball was "where his heart was," but around his junior year of college some doubts crept in whether that's the sport he was best cut out for. He hit .262/.374/.315 as a junior and interest from scouts waned.
"It was nerve-racking," Grotjohn said going into his senior season. "I didn't know if that was going to be my last year of baseball."
The versatile Grotjohn took the season off from summer ball to rehab his body and refine his skills and it paid off in a huge way as he put up a .390/.459/.512 slash line and was drafted by the D-backs, his hometown team and favorite organization growing up.
"It was literally the best thing ever. I didn't think it was going to be there," Grotjohn said. "I talked to about 16, 17 different teams and the D-Backs were the last team to talk to me.
"It's awesome, I couldn't think of it working out more perfect. ... It was so exciting staying in the hometown. I was honestly just hoping it would be a team in Arizona, so I had Spring Training at home, so it couldn't have worked out any better. Just perfect."
Grotjohn is batting .283/.330/.457 with three homers and 26 RBIs in 45 games with the Cougars.
Silverio contributed three hits and scored three times, while Yoel Yanqui and Yan Sanchez each collected a pair of hits and scored twice for Kane County.
Hunter Hargrove was 2-for-4 with a solo homer and Skyler Weber doubled, singled and drove in two runs for the Snappers.