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Comparing Sonny Gray, Grant Green to Past Top A's Prospects

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Comparing Sonny Gray, Grant Green to Past Top A's Prospects
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Grant Green with an attempt at second base.

Oakland Athletics prospects Grant Green and Sonny Gray—both recently called up—are expected by the organization (and many fans) to contribute immediately. But should anyone expect these guys to be the next Miguel Tejada and Tim Hudson?

The short answer is, well, no.

That doesn't mean they won't blossom into studs, though. Both of these young men have a ton of potential. Still, if we can't say Green is the next Eric Chavez—a Gold Glove staple in the infield for nearly a decade—and Gray won't live up to Mark Mulder status (one of the Big Three), then who will they be the second coming of?

That will take a longer answer.

 

Grant Green—Who He Isn't, Who He Might Be

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Grant Green—Gold Glove power hitter like Chavez, or lesser-talented Bobby Crosby?

The A's drafted Chavez out of high school. For this discussion, we're looking specifically for guys who were drafted out of college for a better comparison. So Green ain't Tejada either.

It's easy to compare Green to Bobby Crosby.

Crosby played for Long Beach State University; Green played for USC.

BoCro is a 2001 first-round draft pick who, after three years in the minors, took over at shortstop full time in 2004. In all but one amazing Rookie of the Year season, he had average pop. Though he played league average defense (.971 fielding percentage), he consistently hit below average.

Green, on the other hand, is quite the opposite.

In just over four years in the minors, Green tore it up, hitting .305. He lacks major league experience (obviously, hence the article), but he matched Crosby's minor league production. In fact, he did so with a bit more power.

The knock on Green is his defense. Clearly, moving around the diamond, to the outfield and back has had an affect.

Crosby arrived in Oakland as a September call-up in 2003. He took over as the everyday starter in 2004. Could Green—a midseason call-up in 2013—take over every day in 2014?

It's definitely possible.

Will he have a Crosby-esque Rookie of the Year season? This is baseball; anything can happen (did anyone truly see Josh Donaldson blowing up?).

Speaking of Donaldson, it might be better to compare Green to the catcher-turned-third baseman after all. The Bringer of Rain spent five full seasons in the minor leagues before receiving his shot in The Show. After hitting .153 in the first third of the 2012, the A's sent him down.

But he bounced back in a major way.

It may just be that Green has the tools to succeed, but doesn't show them immediately. If he's not the answer right away, don't assume he's a bust. If we gave up on players that fast, Donaldson wouldn't be playing All-Star caliber baseball at the hot corner for one of the best teams in baseball.

 

Sonny Gray—How Does He Compare?

Google search the terms "Sonny Gray" and "comparison" and you'll see a plethora of names that include Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Lincecum.

For this article, let's stick with only Athletics.

According to a conglomeration of multiple sites (most notably Scout.com and AthleticsNation.com), Gray utilizes a strong fastball in the low to mid 90s and an above-average curveball. Neither may be deemed overpowering, but it's the dangerous fashion in which he uses the combination that stumps hitters (at least in the minors).

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Sonny Gray doesn't have to be a powerful pitcher. Zito never blew anyone away.

With really only two featured pitches and his time in the minors, the Zito comparison may be the most appropriate.

Both men rely on similar pitches. Both flew through the minor leagues in two years. Zito has the better curveball, and Gray has the better fastball.

Say what you want about Zito's struggles between 2007-11, but overall he's been a solid pitcher with a winning record and a sub-4.00 ERA. He was awesome in the beginning, slumped in the middle and has learned to adjust to decreasing velocity by pitching smarter.

If Gray is the next Zito, it really wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Let's say for fun, Gray sticks in the bullpen, though. At his build (5'11", 200 pounds), Gray compares physically to Huston Street.

How fitting.

Early in his career, Street threw fastballs 50 percent of the time and relied on the slider as his secondary pitch, according to FanGraphs.com. Mostly fastballs mixed in with breaking balls—that sounds like Gray.

Moreover, closer Grant Balfour is a free agent after this season, and with 44 straight saves, he'll be a hot commodity come winter. If Gray is as dangerous as many claim, and he predominantly depends on two pitches, then, as Chris Biderman of Scout.com (link above) suggests, there may be a fit for Gray in a closing role.

 

Are Either of These Guys the Next Successful Prospect?

At this point, Gray has the slight edge to be a major player for the Oakland Athletics. He's jetted through the minors with quality stats and in limited experience has shown he can handle the majors.

Gray and Green are the second coming of...

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Should Gray become a Huston Street or Barry Zito, fans should be happy.

Remember, outside of the Oakland comparisons, his name has been mentioned next to Cliff Lee, Oswalt and Lincecum. To turn into the 2.0 version of one of those men would be awesome as well.

Green is a wild card at this point.

He could literally be a Crosby Jr., a guy who played outstanding baseball in Triple-A but rapidly goes downhill after arriving in the bigs, or he could be the next Josh Donaldson, who started slow then took baseball by storm.

Betting he'll be in between, say, the next Mark Ellis, wouldn't be a bad idea.

He doesn't stand out, yet he quietly produces to the tune of a respectable .265 average, just over double-digit home runs and he mans second with top-notch defense.

Take points off fielding percentage, add them to the batting average and you may have yourself a Mark Ellis 2.0—also known as Grant Green.

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