A year ago today, former USC shortstop Grant Green waited patiently to hear his name called in the 2009 MLB Draft.
Yes, patiently — not anxiously. Being anxious isn't really Green's style. But he didn't have to wait too long, as the Oakland Athletics chose the Anaheim Hills native with their first pick, 13th overall, quickly anointing him as the organization's shortstop of the future.
And in the 363 days that have passed since draft day, Green has made himself into a mainstay in the Billy Beane-led organization made famous by the 2003 book Moneyball. Reminding many of Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young, the 22-year-old Green possesses the gap-to-gap hitting ability major-league teams so covet.
Playing all but one game this season for the High-A Stockton Ports, Green is hitting a team-high .308, with two home runs and 22 RBI. His 15 doubles and three triples also lead the Ports, who, with a record of 24-33, currently sit in eighth place in the ten-team California League.
Green did take a while to sign with the A's, waiting until what he termed "30 seconds" before the MLB-mandated 9 p.m. deadline on August 17 to sign a deal containing a $2.75 million signing bonus, orchestrated by super-agent Scott Boras, Green's longtime advisor. But just one week later, he was playing for the High-A Stockton Ports. Two months later, he was lighting it up in instructional league.
"I could tell right then that he was serious about what he wanted to do," says Steve Scarsone, his manager both in instructional league play and for the Ports. "I've seen guys get drafted high and they come in and they kinda go through the motions for a little while and wait for it to hit them in the face."
"Grant came in and immediately wanted to get better."
And get better he has. At the start of the 2010 season, he was named the Oakland's No. 3 prospect by Baseball America. That was before he appeared in three games for the A's major-league side in spring training.Courtesy Stockton Ports
In 56 games for High-A Stockton, former USC shortstop Grant Green is leading the California League squad with a .308 average. His 15 doubles and three triples are also team-highs.
Now, he's hitting second for the Ports and enjoying a torrid hitting streak. He's hitting .489 in his last 10 games, including a 4-for-5 (with two doubles and two runs scored) performance Sunday.
Of late, he's carrying his team — just as he did in 2009 for the Trojans, when he hit .374 with four homers and 32 RBI while hitting third in the lineup with almost no protection on either side of him. That USC squad finished 28-28 on the season, falling short of postseason play for the fourth consecutive season.
"A lot has changed," Green says. "But a lot has still stayed the same, in a sense. I'm happy with where I am now."
Scouts say Green's hitting may soon warrant a callup to the next level of minor-league ball — Double-A, which for the A's is based in Midland, Texas — but his defense is still considered a work in progress. His 17 errors — which translate to nearly 50 over a full major-league season — lead the Ports, and some question whether he can stay at shortstop for the long haul.
A move to third is a possibility. His 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame tends to look more natural manning the hot corner than it does anchoring the infield at shortstop, but the A's are not ready to give up hope just yet.
"He's doing the work, and he's showing improvement all the time there," Scarsone says. "That's his biggest challenge for right now, though — getting more consistent defensively."
Green and Scarsone — each graduate's of Anaheim's Canyon High School — have developed a rapport over the course of the year. Player and coach talk, continually.
"We're constantly talking about all sides of the game — hitting, defense, the things he needs to do as a shortstop to keep the rest of the team in tune," Scarsone said. "He's slowly starting to open himself up that way and become more of a leader on the field, and that's something that the higher levels are going to be hoping for."
Green, who counts himself as a proponent for going to college and investing in one's future — even when passing up immediate dollars out of high school — seems pleased with his progress. With the 2010 draft set to start today (3 p.m. PT, MLB Network) Green says he has improved during the year since he departed USC. He has kept up with the 2010 Trojans and said he hopes to see a number of USC players drafted over the next three days, including former roommate and right-hander Kevin Couture as well as outfielder Mike O'Neill and catcher Keith Castillo.
Still, just as he did while in college, he speaks without superlatives, tempering his words and refusing to overly praise himself. Essentially, his words reveal the purpose — with the intentions, if you can read into it that much — of someone who is already focused on becoming a major-league player.
But not too focused that he can't continue day-by-day improvement.
"He's not looking for shortcuts," says Scarsone, who spent eight years in the majors. "If anything, he's saying, 'What do I need to do to make sure that not only can I make it, but that I can stay there?'"
Adds Green: "I'd love to be get up there in the next couple years, but there's no specific timeframe. If i need some more tutelage and instruction then that's fine, because I don't want to go up to the majors and then be one of those guys who goes up and down."
"I want to be one of those guys that goes up there and stays there."