By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
March 23, 2009
Grant Green, SS, (6-3, 180), USC (2009 Draft Class)
Grant Green is proud to say that he is 1-for-1 off Major League pitching, though he has yet to play an inning in the big leagues. Green is positioning himself to get many more Major League at-bats in his future. The junior shortstop at USC is projected to be a top-10 draft pick this June, and when he signs, he will immediately be placed on the fast track to the big leagues.
If Green goes in the top 10 picks, he’ll become the sixth USC player to be selected in the first 10 since 1995 and would be the fourth position player, following Geoff Jenkins (1995), Eric Munson (1999) and Jeff Clement (2005). Jenkins has enjoyed a solid everyday career, a path Green might be better suited to follow than either Munson or Clement, whose best tools were power but had only average to below-average complementary skills. Green’s summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit a game-winning home run in the All-Star Game and was named the CCBL’s top pro prospect, put him on the right track for 2009. His infield athleticism draws comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki or Evan Longroia.
Green explained to Baseball Beginnings what he thinks about the comparisons, how changing his swing and approach made him a better hitter, his thoughts about playing short in the majors, how he grew up a Giants fan in Angel country, and his first unofficial hit against a Major League pitcher, and his encounters with two pitchers the New York Yankees tried to buy out of playing college baseball. Read the exclusive Baseball Beginnings interview with Grant Green.
BB: Who is the toughest pitcher you’ve ever faced?
Green: I faced Phil Hughes in high school. He was a senior and I was a sophomore.
BB: Do you remember the at-bat?
Green: Oh, yeah!
BB: Tell us.
Green: We were playing (Foothill High) in a scrimmage. We had our ace going and Hughes was going, three innings each. Nobody for each team had a hit. I’m batting ninth. He comes with a first-pitch fastball and just blows it by me. Next pitch, he comes with a high fastball again and I tipped it off. And then he goes hanging curveball. I took it up the middle. So I’m 1-for-1 off Phil Hughes, a major leaguer.
BB: So you’re living off that! You got a guy who pitches for the Yankees.
Green: (laughing) Pretty much. I’ll live off it. I’m fine with that. I’ve also faced Clayton Kershaw with Team USA. Ben Tootle from Jacksonville State. He’s absolutely disgusting. Shooter Hunt. We played Tulane here my freshman year and he struck me out four times. On the Cape, he struck me out in my first two at-bats against him there.
BB: What were your impressions of Cole (who turned down the Yankees as a 2008 1st round pick to pitch at UCLA)? The guns had his fastball consistently working at 96-97.
Green: Gerrit Cole today, he was the real deal. The first inning, he was throwing his change-up too hard. He was real straight with it and we hit it pretty well. But, what I saw in my third at-bat, it was not the same pitch. It was about the same speed but it dropped dramatically. It was a very good pitch. The only problem I had with him was he a little bit wild and erratic. He lets our dugout influence him quite a bit.
BB: How would you describe your development from when you left high school (Canyon HS in Anaheim Hills) to now?
Green: Actually, a lot. When I came here, Coach (Chad) Kreuter told me I had a Japanese-type swing. I was really compact and I hit everything to right field. They widened me out and really worked on the mental and physical parts of the game with me. Especially with Kreuter playing in the majors for so long, talking with him, he worked with me on a two-strike approach. He wanted to me think about what pitchers will throw in certain counts. On the defensive side, he helped. I had a real problem with staying back and trying to throw the ball as hard as I could and he really taught me to do the Latin-type deal, to get it and flip it over there, to get rid of the ball as soon as possible and to try to save the arm for later.
BB: When you heard that you had a swing that might not be advantageous in pro ball, what did you think?
Green: I heard a lot of people say I had a real unorthodox type of stance, but for me it worked. I was always taught to take the inside pitch the other way. This swing is perfect for that. You can’t really get too big with that kind of swing and it helped me out.
BB: So if someone had seen you play since high school, would they recognize your stance?
Green: Not at all. It would have been different it they had seen me freshman year (at USC) until now.
BB: In your mind, has your progress come quickly?
Green: Somewhat. It’s really taken me quite a while to get the swing down. Defensively, it came really quickly. But the swing, I’m starting to get little kinks here and there, but since I’ve only been working on it for a year and a half, I kind of don’t know exactly how to fix things like I could with my old swing I had my whole life. So the swing is coming here and there and it’s getting better and better.
BB: Two names that get slapped on you are Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. Do you think those are accurate or fair comparisons?
Green: I’ve heard from people that I’m the Michael Young type. I’ve also been told that I had somewhat of a Jeter approach where I stay inside the inside pitch and drive it the other way. Me, personally, I don’t see anyone really.
BB: Do you care?
Green: Not really. It would be sweet compared to a Rookie of the Year (Longoria), another guy who should have been a rookie of the year (Tulowitzki); Jeter, a Hall of Famer; Young, a big league all-star. All those are fine, but it doesn’t really matter.
BB: How have you enjoyed the prelude to the draft or are you ready to go out?
Green: I’m having fun with it. The beginning of this season was bad for me, because I think I started to believe in the hype a little bit. I was trying to do so much. A lot of stuff has been said that I’m not what people said I was. I enjoy it. I get to prove them wrong. I’m kind of ready for the draft to come along. I’m not going to give up on this season because the last three years here have been awesome. I’m not going to take the last three months, spend time with my friends, and play.
BB: How important was last summer in the Cape Cod League for your offensive development?
Green: It proved to me that the swing works. I hit .390 (as a sophomore at USC), but that was with aluminum. Last summer proved to me that I could hit with wood, against some of the best pitchers in the country. Day in and day out, putting good hacks on balls, pretty much proved to me that the swing can work and will work as long as I stick with it.
BB: Was changing your swing a hard sales job or did you buy into it right away?
Green: I kind of fought it at first. Coach Doyle (Wilson) came in after my freshman year and pretty much tried to change my swing. I was stubborn. It worked. I had been a freshman All-American and went out to the Cape and did well. I was fighting him a little bit, but when he sat me down one day and said, ‘This is exactly what we want to do. I’ll show you some tapes of big leaguers who have it.’ As I thought about it more and more, it made sense. He was working with me on getting the swing planted as fast as possible and as long as possible. It made sense, so I started to buy into it. I had a really steep bat angle and he was really big on getting it to the hitting plane as soon as possible and staying there a long time. My last at-bat today, that’s exactly what it was. It was a terrible swing, but I kept my hands through the ball and I hit the ball hard.
BB: What kind of power do you think you’ll have down the road?
Green: I think I’ll have more. I’m 6-3, 185 on a good day. When I start to fill into my body, I think I’ll gain more power. I’ll get the old man strength and gain more power. Until then, I have enough power for here at the college level and I think I’d have enough power for an average major league shortstop. I’m not going to put up the type numbers that some of them do, but to me, it’s fine. I know for a fact I’m not a power guy. I never have been. With me, if I can go up and hit a triple each time, I’d rather do that than hit a home run.
BB: Do you think you’ll be able to stay at shortstop when you get to the big leagues?
Green: I hope so. I’ve played shortstop pretty much my whole life. The only year I never played short was my freshman year on the Cape when I had Gordon Beckham in front of me. I played second and first and a little bit of third that summer.
BB: Crazy things can happen after you sign. Maybe the club says, ‘You’re a second baseman,’ then six weeks later says, no, wait, ‘You’re a third baseman.’ How will you respond to that?
Green: With me, it’s whatever I can play as. If I get to the big leagues as a third baseman, second baseman or even an outfielder, to me, I could care less, as long as I’m playing and having fun. Short would be the premier spot, I’d love to play there, but if they say, ‘We have so-and-so there and you’re not going to be able to make it in that position as a big leaguer,’ then I’ll go with it.
BB: What kind of timetable do you have built into your mind?
Green: I’d like to be in the minors for, at best, half-a-year, and then, at the most I’d like to be there maybe 2 ½ years. That would put me at about 24.
BB: You mentioned you grew up a Giants fan even though you were in Angel country?
Green: [My Dad's] first memories were of the Giants and going to Candlestick Park with my grandfather and freezing his butt off. When I was young, I was always on the Giants and he was one of my coaches. I heard all the stories about him absolutely loving the Giants.
BB: Who was his favorite player?
Green: Probably Willie Mays. You can’t go wrong there.
Learn more about Grant Green:
Read Grant Green Scouting report
Watch Grant Green Scouting video
Watch Grant Green Scouting video Part 2
Watch Grant Green vs. Gerrit Cole video
What kind of pro will Grant Green Be?
Oakland A’s Select Grant Green