Grant Green had heard the talk pretty much from the start of his professional career. The 2009 first-round pick out of University of Southern Calif., had grown accustomed to people questioning his ability to stay at shortstop long-term. There's little question he used that as motivation, wanting to prove to people he could stay up the middle.
He's still playing up the middle, but there's no question he had to swallow some pride when the A's asked him to move to center field in July.
"I think with every position change, you feel this way," Green said about the initial hesitation about the move. "It went alright. The main difference is route-taking. I had some balls early on [that were tough]. And the boredom out there, not being able to talk to anyone."
Moving Green to the outfield wasn't so much about his inability to play in the infield -- he had made good strides there -- but rather about who was in front of him. Cliff Pennington has established himself as the shortstop in Oakland. A move to second -- the shift most saw in Green's future -- isn't an option now that Jemile Weeks has taken over there.
"They reinforced to me that this was the quickest way for me to get there," Green said. "They have Pennington and Weeks, so there's a logjam. It's the best way for me. Hearing that from the general manager settles your thinking down."
To Green's credit, learning a new position on the fly did not hurt his offense. In fact, Green hit better in the second half of the season as he was playing center field. Near the end of April, Green was hovering around .200. A 13-game hitting streak lifted him to .290 while he was still playing short. But his best month came as a center fielder, when he hit .342/.362/.459 in August, proof that Green was able to eventually not dwell on a poor plate appearance with the extra idle time in the outfield.
"At first, if I didn't get a hit, I'd think about every at-bat," said Green, who hit .294 with six of his nine homers in the second half. "But I think my numbers went up when I moved to the outfield. I'm more happy with how poorly I started and then how I ended up. I knew I could only go up from there."
Top 10 review
When the 2011 season began, all but one of the system's Top 10 prospects were hitters. That didn't change at season's end, largely because only one player -- No. 5 Weeks -- graduated from the list.
Weeks graduated with honors, of course, hitting .303 with 22 steals over 96 games and making a late case for Rookie of the Year consideration. There were a few other bats who hoped to make larger contributions in Oakland, namely No. 2 Chris Carter and No. 10 Michael Taylor. Both spent some time in the big leagues, but a grand total of fewer than 100 combined at-bats falls short of expectations.
The lone arm on the list, Ian Krol, had a completely lost season, due both to injury and a suspension. The lefty is just 20 years old, however, and has time to get things headed back in the right direction. The A's looked to address some of that lack of depth when they took Sonny Gray out of Vanderbilt with their first-round pick last June. Gray is an advanced college arm who will likely jump on the fast track to join that young staff in Oakland soon.
A's top 10 prospects
|1.||Grant Green, SS||Green, OF|
|2.||Chris Carter, 1B||Choice|
|3.||Michael Choice, OF||Carter|
|4.||Ian Krol, RHP||Cabrera|
|5.||Jemile Weeks, 2B||Shipman|
|6.||Yordy Cabrera, SS||Nunez|
|7.||Max Stassi, C||Taylor|
|8.||Aaron Shipman, OF||Stephen Parker, 3B|
|9.||Renato Nunez, 3B||Stassi|
|10.||Michael Taylor, OF||Krol|
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Grant Green, SS: It seemed like Green would walk away with his second straight Hitter of the Year honor, but while he finished strongly, his overall season wasn't award-worthy.
Ian Krol, LHP: He was supposed to own the California League and even earn a promotion, but instead he was hampered by injury and then suspended because of inappropriate comments on Twitter.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Michael Choice, OF: Critics may not love the 134 strikeouts in 118 games, but the 2010 first-rounder's 30 homers and 82 RBIs in his first full season placed him second in both categories in the system. He topped the California League in homers and finished fifth in slugging.
A.J. Griffin, RHP: The 13th-rounder from the 2010 Draft made stops at all four full-season A's affiliates in his first full season, finishing second in the system with his 3.47 ERA and tied for the lead with 156 strikeouts. He even won a pair of games for Stockton in the California League playoffs.