The Future is Unwritten: Zach Green
A regularly discussed factor in prospect evaluation is risk. The youngest prospects, while often possessing tremendous upside, have a long developmental road to travel before they can reach the Majors. Often, somewhere along the way they take a wrong turn and end up lost, short, an organizational player. AS we project prospects we have to be mindful of the number and degree of difficulty of the developmental hurdles a teenage player must clear on his way up the farm system. Third baseman Zach Green is no different. Green’s ceiling is quite solid, that of an above average everyday player. If everything breaks right for him the Phillies are looking at a decent defensive third baseman with well above average power, enough to make up the acceptable amount of swing and miss in his game. The great, yawning chasm between that optimal outcome and where Green is now will take years to close.
At an already physically imposing 6’3”, 210lbs, those years may not be kind to Green’s chances of sticking at third base. His arm strength is above average, his hands (Green was a SS in high school) are fine and I expect the footwork to improve as Green gets reps at the position. What concerns some scouts is whether Green will continue to fill out and slow down, draining him of the requisite range and flexibility you’d like your third baseman to have. I share those concerns to a degree, but Green’s body is wiry and long. He has room to add the weight that comes with age without it getting in the way. One of the things scouts will tell you is an indicator of future weight gain in the lower half is a supple, high, round butt. Green doesn’t have it. He has a flat, mom butt. Sorry, Zach. I do too, it’s okay. Anyway, it’s not the kind of lower half that looks like it’s going to gain so much weight that Green will become too statuesque to suck up ground balls at third. More than his genetic composition, Green’s work ethic and willingness to keep his body in optimum infield condition will play a role in his future viability at the hot corner. As an outsider, I know very little about Green’s makeup. Do I think Green gets bigger? Yes. Do I think he’ll get so big that he has to move off of third base? No, but there’s a non-zero chance of it.
There’s more risk involved with the bat. Green’s got plus raw power and I think he’s going to grow into some more, but I question if he’ll hit enough to tap into it. There’s noise in the swing, including a soft front side through contact at times, some movement in the head and shoulders and a bat path that’s more loft-friendly than it is contact oriented. Additionally, Green doesn’t track the baseball exceptionally well and does his fair share of swinging and missing at stuff in the zone.
This isn’t the worst of news, however. It’s not as though Green goes to the plate like an axe murderer, hacking at everything he sees. He actually has an impressive approach for someone his age and shows a willingness to work counts and take pitches. As Chris Crawford mentioned in his interview here last week, he’d rather have a player of this ilk than someone who just habitually goes to the plate swinging out of his ass. Green’s issues are mostly mechanical, and while mechanical tweaks certainly have their downside (remember what the Phillies did to Jonathan Singleton?) they can reap reward as well. I don’t expect them to do any sort of overhaul with Green unless his performance becomes so poor that he merits one. Coaches are correcting little things here and there every day. The changes made to Green’s swing will come little by little over the next half decade instead of all at once. I have a present 30 on the bat, future 40 as a ceiling. If the power comes along a little more and Green continues to show a solid approach all the way up the ladder, a below average bat will be enough. I’m not sure it gets there, but if it does then this is a player.
Again, Green is eons away from viability and any number of things could go wrong between now and then. The body could get away from him, he might never make enough contact, a swing change in effort to fix him could derail him, etc. As such, the risk involving Green is quite large and, unless you really believe in the bat, he probably won’t be seen high on many organizational lists. But he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on.