Power-hitting shortstops are a valuable commodity, and power-hitting shortstops who provide solid defense are invaluable. Which brings us to Grant Green, who may or may not fit either of those descriptions.
Rated as the top prospect in the Oakland system by both Baseball America and ESPN's Keith Law, while Kevin Goldstein ranks him second, Green was drafted 13thoverall in the 2009 draft out of the University of Southern California. He put up an eye-opening .318/.363/.520 slash line in High-A Stockton last summer, but opinions are mixed on just how good he will be—and at which position.
According to a scout for a National League team, the 23-year-old Green might not have what it takes to remain a shortstop: “That’s going to be the challenge for Green. He’s one of those players that burst onto the scene after his sophomore year in college and then had a tremendous Cape Cod in his draft year. He had a sub par junior year, by his standards, so his draft stock fell a little bit. One of the big questions was whether he was going to be able to stay at shortstop.
“It’s a big body,” continued the scout. “He’s about 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, and while he’s a bit lanky, it’s a tall body that has a chance to really fill out, so he might outgrow shortstop. Looking at the numbers, he also had 37 errors last year in A-ball. Picking it up and throwing it across the diamond from the shortstop position is obviously very important, and he hasn’t really shown that he can do that on a consistent basis.”
A scout for an American League team has a far more optimistic view, despite the questions about Green’s range and arm strength, opining, “[he] is athletic, despite his tall frame, and will be able to stick at shortstop. I think he’ll play it average to a tick above average at the big-league level. He has a real good feel for the game, with above-average overall baseball instincts. I see him as a future starting shortstop.”
There are also questions about Green’s offensive ceiling, despite his big-time production in Stockton. His final collegiate season yielded an OPS 78 points lower than his junior campaign, with his home-run total dropping from nine bombs to four. His pro debut was just a cameo, as he signed late and only appeared in five games; his 2010 numbers, which included 20 home runs, came in one of the best hitting environments in professional baseball.
“I’m a little surprised by the offense he provided last year, primarily because of the down draft year he had in 2009,” said the National League scout. “To expect him to come out and perform the way he did in 2010… it was almost as though he hadn’t missed a beat, and he didn’t really have to make a lot of adjustments.
“Oakland is a team which has taken a lot of their college guys and started them in Low-A, but they actually pushed him to High-A,” continued the scout. “I don’t know the park effects for Stockton off the top of my head—it’s a hitters’ league in general—but he threw up numbers that you really can’t ignore, regardless of the environment. He was one of the better hitters in the California League and you really can’t take that away from him just because it is a hitters’ league. He really put himself on the map.”
“I think Green just underperformed a bit at USC his junior year, but that’s a tiny sample size,” added the American League scout. “He was a projected top five overall pick coming into that year.
“He’s a tall middle infielder who I see as a future above-average major-league hitter with slightly below average plate discipline and on-base skills,” continued the AL scout. “He has some power. He’s a 13- to 15-home run type of guy, 15 to 20 in a really good year. He needs to get stronger and improve breaking ball recognition, but he showed improvements with both last season.”
Productive offensive players who outgrow the shortstop position typically end up at the hot corner, but Green lacks the arm strength of a Cal Ripken Jr., and is likely destined for the keystone if a switch is deemed necessary. That's because second basemen who provide power are more valuable than third basemen who do the same, so a move within the middle infield wouldn’t result in a significant decrease in value.
Green would be big for a second sacker, although players his size have manned the position in the past. A’s fans old enough to remember the 1973 World Series will recall 6-foot-3 Mike Andrews, who had several productive seasons with the Red Sox—including a 17-homer campaign—before his infamous run-in with Charlie O. Finley. Andrews might be the best comp, with the slightly taller Danny Ainge representing a low-ceiling outcome and the somewhat shorter [6-foot-1] Jeff Kent—both a shortstop and a third baseman in his first professional season—the best-case scenario.
“Because of the bigger frame, he’s a guy who is going to be expected to provide some offense,” said the National League scout. “It’s a question of whether he outgrows [shortstop] and while he's athletic enough for me to see him having value at second, if he puts on too much weight he may be forced to third. It's a question of whether or not he can maintain enough quickness and range to stay in the middle of the diamond.
"Regardless, he's showing enough bat to project as having major-league value wherever his glove ends up,” added the scout. “It a nice problem to have for the A's.”