One of the few positional battles this spring is at second base, which, according to Joe Strauss, “Tyler Greene will receive every opportunity to hold down.” Discussing Greene’s chances during an interview with KMOX’s Kevin Wheeler today, general manager John Mozeliak talked up Greene for his “unique combination of speed and power.” What is this, 1987? But seriously, assuming that those skills are that valuable in the first place (where have you gone, Eric Davis and Bo Jackson?), does Greene truly possess them?
The speed part of his game is fairly perspicuous: In 616 minor-league games, he has stolen 144 bases at a Tim-Raines-like 87% success rate. And of course he was 11-for-11 with the big club last year. But his overall offensive impact was negligible because, as the old saying goes, you can’t steal first base (OBP: .322).
But what about this power that Mozeliak and others speak of? It’s true that Greene raked at Memphis last year, with a .579 SLG. But that was at age 27, when most players, especially those who want to play at the major-league level, should be peaking (not to mention that it was a sample of only 303 PAs). Greene’s career minor league slugging is .449. That’s comparable to Jon Jay‘s minor-league slugging of .432, and, with all of his considerable talents, “power” is not one typically associated with him.
What’s more, though, is that Greene’s ability to translate whatever minor-league power he had into major-league power is a dubious proposition. Former Cardinal infielder Brian Barden had a similarly potent bat in the minors, finishing with a .446 SLG. It didn’t translate at the next level, though: he had a .303 SLG in only a handful (193) of PAs. Ditto Adam Kennedy (.456 SLG in minors, .385 SLG in majors).
If Greene excelled instead in OBP, he would give more reason for optimism, not only for on-base skills in the majors but also power. For instance, Kelly Johnson, a player who posted a .365/.467 line in 614 minor-league games, has been able to retain most of both, featuring a .343/.441 line in an up-and-down major-league career.
That said, Greene still makes decent contact (84.9% in the zone, 73.8% overall), which bodes well for power. Compare that with Johnson (87.2%, 78.5%) or even Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks (84.5%, 75.1%). The key will be laying off pitches outside the zone, which may not be a skill that Greene has: He has a too-high 30.0% outside-zone swing rate coming into this season. Even Yadier Molina, who likes to go outside the zone, has only a 27.5% career rate.
Ultimately, it may simply make sense to use Greene as part of a three-way platoon, with lefties Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso splitting the rest of the time. His glove and speed should be enough to make his rostering worthwhile. As for his putative power, will it come?