This is the fourth in a series of blog postings where I take a look at a prospect in the Brewers’ minor league system.
- Is a third baseman who can play second base in a pinch
- Is 5’11″, 200 pounds
- Bats left-handed, throws right-handed
- Was born on 11/2/86 in Comox, BC, Canada
- Was drafted in the 25th round of the 2005 draft out of Cypress College in CA; signed as a draft-and-follow on May 30th, 2006
- Career minor league slash: .291/.373/.458 over 2532 plate appearances
- True fact: Has never walked on water, but he does shoot at things in the air
Much blog ink has been spilled over Taylor Green this year, including my own piece on the Brewers’ third base situation back in June. Green is something of an internet darling, revered by box score readers, but reviled by beat writers (well, not personally) who have been asked about him persistently since Casey McGehee reached the depths of his slump this summer.
The online praise that has been heaped on Green this year has been bestowed upon him for a reason. Green put up the 6th-highest OPS in all of AAA this year amongst qualified batters, finishing with an impressive 997 OPS in Nashville. Yes, the Pacific Coast League is one of the most extreme hitters leagues in the minors, so some have argued that his 997 mark is artificially inflated. I have two counterpoints to that argument, though. Even if the number is inflated, it’s still the 6th best in the Pacific Coast League, so it’s impressive relative to league strength. And it’s actually even more impressive than that, because Greer Stadium in Nashville is one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the minor leagues (not just the PCL). Green put up a 919 OPS at Greer, which is really quite impressive.
You can get a detailed history on Green if you read my story on him linked above, but here’s the short of it: he was drafted by the Brewers in 2005 out of a California community college, and signed as a draft-and-follow the following May. (The draft-and-follow process is now defunct.)
He played second base in college and in his first pro exposure in Helena. At the end of 2007 spring training, the Brewers’ class-A affiliate in West Virginia needed someone to play third base, and Green was approached about switching positions so he could fill in there and get some playing time. He took to third, but took even more to hitting and mashed his way through 2007 and 2008 (and was almost traded in the CC Sabathia deal) before breaking his wrist at the end of that season. He didn’t regain all of his strength until this year, and his star had faded quite a bit.
Now that his star is shining again, what tools make Taylor Green a good prospect? To answer that question, you have to start with what he’s not.
- Taylor Green is not a physical specimen – he’s a little short and a bit thick in the lower half.
- Taylor Green does not have world-class bat speed – he hits well because he understands the strike zone and what not to swing at.
- Taylor Green does not possess mammoth power or power potential – he’s what I would call a “strong gap” hitter, somewhat akin to the power range of Jeff Cirillo.
- Taylor Green is not fast – he’s just not that fast… not plodding, but not fast.
- Taylor Green is not a premium defender with a premium throwing arm – he makes the routine plays and makes the routine throws but won’t win a Gold Glove unless he hits really well.
- Taylor Green is not an everyday second baseman – he doesn’t have the range, or at this point the experience.
Basically what we’re left with in Green after discussing what he’s not, is that he is a gamer. Green plays the game hard. He grinds. He maxes out his abilities. He plays smart baseball. He succeeds because of his work, not because of extraordinary tools. Which is not to say he doesn’t have any tools or good raw skill – clearly he does. He has to in order to have the success he’s had in AAA.
Now let’s talk a little bit about what he looks like at the plate. Green has a wide, wide open stance set close to the plate. He has a pronounced squat that puts his rear leg at about a 45-60 degree angle to the ground. He starts his swing with a slightly more upright posture, but still uses his lower legs quite a bit to generate stability and power in his swing. Most of Green’s power is to his pull-side – right and right-center. He does occasionally drive the ball to the opposite field, but he’ll go that way more often when he flares a pitch into the shallow outfield. Green has good strike zone knowledge and works the count well. He has a strong normal platoon split, hitting righties hard while struggling against lefties.
Defensively, Green is competent. He won’t wow you most of the time, but he will make most of the plays he should make. His range is alright and his arm is alright. He’s sort of like a more-agile Casey McGehee. Green can play second base, but has below average range there and should probably not be used there on a regular basis. You could get by with him at second occasionally.
In this piece I’ve intentionally stayed away from talking about who the Brewers should start at third base. That’s been discussed to death and frankly, I’d be surprised if the Green is the Brewers’ regular starting third baseman anytime soon, regardless of whether or not he should be. I think that Green would be at least an average third baseman right now, and probably would continue to be so for the next 3-5 years at least. Like McGehee, he’s going to have to consistently work hard to maximize his skill set and like McGehee, he might just have to wait for an opening.
I’m glad that the Brewers are giving Green a chance and a crack at the playoff roster. If they give him any sort of regular playing time from here on out to the playoffs, I believe they’ll be pleasantly surprised at how hard he plays and how productive he can be. I sincerely hope the Brewers’ braintrust does not believe that young players can’t be good contributors merely because of the intermittent failings of Mat Gamel. Green’s time will come. Probably not this season, and maybe not next season, but he will make an impact in Milwaukee in the not too-distant future.