If Grant Green's career so far were a flip book, on page 6 you might find him peeking out, upside down, from the top right-hand corner of the page. "There he is!" a delighted 4-year boy would squeal. "Next page, daddy!" He seems to be repositioned that frequently.
When the A's made him their first pick, and the 13th pick overall, in 2009. Green was a SS. Scouts had suggested he might need to move off of SS and expressed concerns about his footwork and the accuracy of his throwing arm. For the A's to select him in the first round, they must either have felt that he could stick at SS or that his bat was good enough that he could thrive at less of a "defensive position".
After watching him for 2 shaky seasons at SS, the A's announced that if you wanted to play "Where's Grant?" you might want to look out in CF because that's where Green was going to be. Still a "defense first" position, but pretty much "night and day" from SS.
I think it's fair to say that Green did not take to CF. Personally, I only ever got to see two balls hit to him, each in the A's-Rivercats exhibition game this past March. The first one was a routine fly ball hit with the bases loaded and two out. Green dropped it for a three-run error. The other actually made him look worse, as he misjudged the ball off the bat, wobbled back uncertainly and with an air of desperation, then turned the wrong way again, reached the glove out vaguely where he figured the ball probably was, and caught it.
"Did we say CF?" the A's replied. "Because we meant LF." Green moved to LF earlier this season, which was problematic in that a LFer needs to hit more than a CFer in order to provide value. Also tricky about the move is that it turns out that even LFers need to be able to judge and catch fly balls, and while I haven't heard a report on Green's prowess, or lack thereof, as a LFer, there is at least some indirect evidence that he may have displayed less than gold glove skills there: Yesterday the A's announced that Green is, in fact, the Rivercats' 3Bman.
Meanwhile, the 24-year old Green is hitting pretty well, with a AAA slash line of .303/.344/.475 in the mostly hitter-friendly PCL. In 59 games and 260 PAs, Green has walked 16 times, striking out on 44 occasions, and has 8 HRs, one for every 32.5 PAs.
I'll give Green this: Just by coming in 100 feet, he becomes the A's best prospect at 3B. Now whether he can field or throw from the hot corner is entirely another matter. I'm assuming, though, that most failed SS, CF, LF projects handle 3B with the greatest of ease. Or is it the greatest of Es?
Here's what I wonder: How common is this phenomenon, where teams can't figure out where a guy can, or should, actually play, and wind up wasting time bouncing him around in all the wrong places? Certainly a move from SS directly over to 3B would have been more logical, but the A's must have felt that Green had a better chance to thrive defensively in the OF than elsewhere on the infield. And then they thought maybe if they tried a slightly easier OF spot...And now they're on their 4th position in 4 years...
Does this happen a lot because it happens with players who can't really succeed anywhere defensively, and so wherever you put them you keep eventually moving them -- and it didn't really matter what order you tried things, because they were all destined to be bad choices? Adrian Cardenas, SS, 2Bman, 3Bman, LFer extraordinaire, would probably say yes.
Or do teams often assess well where a move should be, what that player's defensive skill-set will and won't allow him to do, and get it right the first time -- and so when you see a Grant Green situation, it reflects a failure of scouting on the part of the organization?
Most of all can Grant Green, who has some hitting skills, play a good enough 3B to stick there defensively and set his sights on the major leagues? If not, can he play anywhere? Can he be taught, or does he simply lack the tools to field a baseball anywhere on the diamond. We call this Chris Carter Syndrome.
Lots of questions, very few answers. Welcome to scouting and player development in the minor leagues.