For the record, I have never met Jedd Gyorko, and I assume he’s a nice guy.
Nick Franklin was the subject of yesterday’s Prospect A-Z. He’s the Mariners shortstop with a bit of a schizophrenic scouting report. Prior to the 2009 draft, he was an athletic shortstop that would provide defense and a little hitting. After the 2010 season, he appeared to be a power hitter that may not be able to stick at short. 2011 was a bit of a lost season due to injuries and a case of mono, and he’ll have to bounce back in 2012, likely starting back in AA Jackson. Today, we’ll stay in the AL West with Oakland’s new centerfield prospect Grant Green.
Grant Green, SS/CF, Oakland A’s (2011: AA Midland)
While the A’s have gotten away from adhering to the rigid philosophies of Moneyball drafting that many people believe they have, they still prefer college players in the first round. They haven’t drafted a high schooler with their first pick in a draft (not necessarily the first round) since Trevor Cahill in 2006. They haven’t drafted a high schooler in the first round since Jeremy Bonderman in 2001. They haven’t drafted a high schooler with their first pick that takes place in the first round since Eric Chavez was the 10th overall pick in 1996. So it’s not surprising that the A’s took Green in 2009.
Like Nick Franklin yesterday, Green is a player whose profile has changed radically since his days in high school although with Green, it took place over a number of years and not just one. In high school, he was a slick fielding shortstop whose questionable hitting ability caused him to fall in the draft. At Southern California where he opted to go instead of signing with the Padres in the teens, he remade himself into an offense first kind of player that may have to change positions. In his junior season, his stock slipped a bit when he only hit four home runs, but the A’s believed in him and took him 13th overall.
He started his first full season in high-A Stockton, a bit of an aggressive promotion, but not one that a player from a strong college program can’t handle. For much of the first half, Green was just average. He was hitting a lot of singles, but the above average power he was supposed to develop wasn’t there yet. In June, Green turned it on. After hitting only two home runs in April and none in May, his power finally came through. He hit 18 home runs the rest of the way and finished the year with a .881 OPS, nearly 200 points better than his April split. That’s the player the A’s thought they were drafting.
There was still the pesky defensive concern. With a fringy arm and a bigger body not seen often in shortstops, it seemed likely that he would eventually have to move. However, the approach most teams take with issues like that is to not deal with it until they absolutely have to. Being in high-A leaves Green a couple years away from the majors. The A’s are likely satisfied with Cliff Pennington‘s defense at short, and as long as they can improve the rest of the lineup and live with his bat batting 9th.
About halfway through the 2011 season, it was announced that Green would be playing centerfield. I don’t think anyone was expecting that, assuming that if he would move, it would be elsewhere on the infield. However, it makes sense. He doesn’t have the arm to play third, his bat probably won’t be good enough to profile at any of the other corner positions, and that leaves second base and centerfield. He could eventually settle in at second, but with Jemile Weeks occupying it in Oakland, centerfield might be his best chance to break through with the A’s. His bat profiles at the position, and he should be able to play adequate defense.
However, the bat was a problem in 2011. He finished the season with a .744 OPS. Again, he got off to a slow start in the first couple months, but he never recovered. He hit .289, but it was an empty .289 with little power. He hit no more than two home runs in any month, and once again he went homerless in May. It’s good that he’s been able to maintain a good average, but the A’s have higher hopes for his power. He has the ability to hit to all fields, so even if he doesn’t develop power he could still have okay offensive value, maybe as a #2 hitter.
The one thing Green has to improve on is his plate approach. Going back to his days at USC, he always struck out quite a bit and didn’t walk very much. It’s surprising that a player who can hit to the opposite field with solid bat control can strike out so much, but he does. If he was better at working favorable counts for himself, he would give himself a better chance to hit near the top of the order. If he improves his approach and is able to learn to take good routes in centerfield, the A’s will be satisfied with their selection from 2009.
Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up the short week with a Nationals minor leaguer.