How good a draft prospect is Green?

April 7, 2009

Grant Green entered the year as one of the elite prospects for the 2009 Draft. Thought of as a Top 5 talent by every major evaluator, the USC shortstop has had an up and down junior season and generally failed to meet expectations. Praise for Green was not hard to come by before the season started.     

On Februray 6th, John Manuel of Baseball America said the following in a chat when asked about Green, "I'd say he's the favorite for the No. 2 spot."

Jim Callis (same chat) responded to a question about Green versus Tim Beckham, "I think Green has more power and upside with the bat, while Beckham is more athletic and more of a pure shortstop. When guys are close, I tend to go with the one who has proven himself vs. tougher competition, so I'll take Green by just a hair."  

I had Green as my No. 3 overall prospect, calling him an, "Athletic true shortstop w/ power (.254 IsoP),  35/15 K/BB must improve, likely will."  For all the preseason praise, Grant Green needed a breakout season in 2009 in order to justify the aggressive rankings. Coming off of a productive 2008 season in which he showed good power, reasonable contact ability, and was strong in the Cape (top 5 in nearly every major offensive category), he looked ready for a breakout. So far, that hasn't quite happened. 

Through 110 plate appearances, Green is hitting .375/.455/.552 with 11 walks and 22 strikeouts. Green's triple slash scores have been buoyed by a recent 17-for-39 stretch that has raised his average and OBP by over 100 points. However, of those 17 hits only five went for extra bases. Green now boasts a completely rediculous BABIP of .472. To put that number in perspective, the average BABIP in the Pac-10 this year is .333, with the confrenece batting average being .278. His recent hot streak is too singles and luck driven to be real. If we adjust his numbers to even a .400 BABIP is overall line drops to .322/.403/.529, assuming you only take away singles. If we give him a confrence average BABIP Green would only be hitting .270/.351/.478. 

Green's zone judgement remains a red flag. He has struck out 20.0% of the time this year, showing a massive increase from last year's total of 15.49%. Green's walk rate of 10.0% represents a small upgrade from last year's horrendous 6.6% but still below average. Strikeout and walk rate are the most predictive convential statistics when translating college to pro success. Grant Green struggles in both of these areas.

Using my database of all Top 50 college draft picks since 2001, only one player has walked under 10.0% of the time during his sophomore and junior years and had MLB success. That person also happens to be a player Green is often compared to, former Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki is also one of only two players to be first round picks and score under 480 in my college ranking system. If Green is a +20 defender who will get a massive boost from his home park, then he'll be worth a top 10 pick.

Despite being overrated early in the draft process, Grant Green is still a solid prospect -- likely a first rounder. He still has power, athleticism and upside that are rare for the position. A large part of his value is tied to his glove, if he can be a plus defender at short he's a reasonable gamble to be a league average player for the position with his bat. If he's a sub-par defender, or has to move off the position, his bat is unlikely to make up for it. Opinions have been mixed on Green's defensive ability this year. He does still have upside but Green is more of a high risk/high reward kind of prospect than some of the other elite college hitters in this draft class. Right now, he's a marginal first rounder in a weak draft who could still be overvalued due to positional scarsity. While there's still a lot of time between now and the draft, Green would have to show massive improvment at the plate, make better contact and draw more walks in order to be an early first rounder in our books.


Lincoln Hamilton can be reached at