How Grant Green's Defense Kills the Oakland A's
Stumbling out of the All Star break is never a good idea, particularly for a division leader. But that is exactly what the Oakland A's have done. The club has played seven consecutive games against teams with losing records and mustered only three wins in that time.
The manner in which Oakland struggled made the week even more depressing for the team and its fans. Grant Balfour blew a save against the Astros of all teams, snapping his consecutive save streak at 44. The Angels beat Oakland three times in one week, and CJ Wilson promptly claimed the A's lone win over LA was tainted by PED user Bartolo Colon. Speaking of Colon, the A's are holding their breath as the Biogenesis chips fall, hoping that he won't face a new suspension.
All of that sounds rough, but it might not even be the worst development of the past week for Oakland. No, perhaps the most disturbing thing that the A's learned this week is that star prospect Grant Green looked completely out of place in the Majors and wound up getting sent back to the minors.Appalling Defense
If there is an opposite of a Fielding Bible Award, Grant Green should be considered the front runner. True, he played in only five games, but his work at second base was truly awful. And we can't really note the small sample size (he was only in the field for 161 plate appearances), without also noting that in his much larger minor league sample size, Green was still regarded as a liability defensively.
Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average measures how many runs above average a player is worth defensively. Green, after appearing in just five games, was worth 2 runs below average according to this metric. You have to be spectacularly bad to cost your team 2 runs defensively in just 5 games. Put differently, over 1,200 innings (a full season) Green would be worth -65 Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average. Among every player who has stepped on a major league field with a glove this season, only 12 have a worse number than that.
Need more proof that Green's defense stinks? The average range factor per nine innings for an AL second baseman is 4.70. Green's RF/9 is 4.03. Alright, so perhaps that number isn't terrible, but it isn't great. Also, only 82 percent of the balls that Green fielded resulted in outs, way below the AL average of 93 percent.
Point is, Grant Green was a terrible liability in the field. Even traditional stats such as his three errors and .850 fielding percentage support that. Again, I acknowledge that the sample size is ridiculously small at the Major League level. But this can't be viewed in a bubble. You have to consider Green's large and rather shoddy body of work as a fielder in the minor leagues and wonder if he can ever play the infield.
Running Out of Options
The most depressing part of this for A's fans is that Green has been a good hitter in the minors. True, he never once reached base in his 16 plate appearances in the Show, but that absolutely can be written off as a small sample size. There should be plenty of optimism that a first round pick who has hit .305/.353/.468 over the course of his minor league career will develop into a good hitter at the next level.
A good hitter would be a significant upgrade over Eric Sogard or Adam Rosales at second. Both are average defensively, but Rosales has an OBP of .274, and though Sogard's is a solid .331, he has just a .375 slugging percentage.
Green was supposed to come in and rake, and he may eventually do that. But it seems increasingly unlikely he'll do it as a second baseman. In fairness, the A's have never let Green settle in a spot, bouncing him from short to outfield to second, so there's a chance he'll develop into a better fielder with time.
The best case scenario is that Green spends yet another extended period in the minors, eventually gets enough experience to become a serviceable defensive second baseman and more than makes up for any flaws in the field with his bat. The more concerning option is that Green can't ever learn to play the infield and has to fight to get his bat in the lineup as a DH or outfielder. Either way, it doesn't look like the A's have a short term answer to the second base puzzle, other than Sogard and Rosales.
Maybe it's time to give Jemile Weeks another chance.