Prospect Retro: Todd Greene
Todd Greene was drafted by the California Angels in the 12th round of the 1993 draft, out of Georgia Southern University. He was Southern Conference Player of the Year, having hit .374 with 20 homers. When he graduated, he ranked third on the all-time NCAA home run list. Despite strong college performance, he didn't go higher in the draft because he was short and stocky. He ran well enough to play center field in college, and he has a strong arm, and at the time I thought he was a potential draft bargain. Greene hit .269 with 15 homers in 70 games for Boise in the Northwest League after signing. I would probably have given him a Grade C+ based on the way I currently rank similar players.
Looking for a catcher, the Angels decided to convert Greene to backstop work due to his strong arm. At the time I thought this was a bad idea, as I really liked his bat and was afraid that switching positions would stall his development. He moved up to the California League in 1994 and had a tremendous season for Lake Elsinore, hitting .302/.378/.584 with 35 homers and 124 RBI in 133 games. His strike zone judgment was decent, and he even stole 10 bases. But his defense was miserable: he was charged with 40 passed balls! Eddie Epstein gave Greene a B+ in the 1995 Minor League Scouting Notebook, which seemed reasonable to me.
Greene began 1995 with Double-A Midland, hitting .327/.365/.638 with 26 homers in just 82 games. Promoted to Triple-A, he hit .250/.308/.530 with 14 homers in 43 games for Vancouver. His plate discipline slipped but he remained very effective even against better pitching, being the first player since Danny Tartabull to hit 40 homers in a minor league season. On the disaster level, Greene's defense improved from "Asteroid Impact Causes World-Wide Apocalypse" to "Yellowstone Supervolcano Destroys North America." I gave him a Grade B+ in the '96 book, impressed with his power but concerned that the Angels weren't using him properly by forcing him into catching.
Greene broke a hand during batting practice early in 1996. He came back to play 60 games for Vancouver and 29 games for the Angels, but he combined to hit just seven homers on the year, quite the comedown. The hand injury messed up his swing and short-circuited his power. The good news was that his defense got a lot better, very quickly. . .he threw out 33 percent of runners and allowed "just" eight passed balls for Vancouver. I gave him a Grade B in the '97 book.
1997 was another split season for Greene: he hit .354 with an incredible 25 homers in 64 games for Vancouver. Obviously his hand was OK. He then hit .290/.328/.556 in 34 games for the Angels. Injuries hampered him again in 1998, then he finally received a fair amount of playing time in 1999, hitting .243 with 14 homers in 97 games.
Greene has spent the last six years as a "have-bat-will-travel" guy, showing a knack for hitting home runs but struggling with batting average and OBP due to his swing-from-the-heels style.. I wonder how he would have developed as a player if he'd been left alone to develop his skills in the outfield. He showed good strike zone judgment in the minors at times, but has been much more impatient at the major league level. Is this a matter of organic style, or does he just press to hit for power since he never knows when his next group of at-bats will come? I find Greene an interesting case for this reason: his career could have gone in a very different direction given a different organization context.