A walk-off single on April 9 had Elijah Green floating through the air. The 19-year-old entered the season ranked at No. 58 of all prospects in baseball by Baseball America. In fact, Keith Law had Green at No.35, and every evaluator except for Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had Green in their Top-100 prospects before the season started. Yesterday, Baseball America dropped Green from their Top-100. Why? If you have been watching the games, you would have your answer.
“On the other side of the coin, some prospects have seen their stock take a hit. Nationals outfielder Elijah Green has plenty of impact potential, but the rates of swing and miss he’s shown early in his career make most scouts believe he’ll have serious trouble getting to it at the highest levels.”— from Baseball America on removing Green from their Top-100
Today, Green has a 41.1% K rate in Single-A ball. That should not be a shocker to anyone if they watched him in the Florida Complex League last year with a 40.4% K rate in a small sample size or back in high school. After he was selected in the 1st round (No. 5 overall) of the 2022 MLB Draft for a slightly over slot $6,500,000 bonus, Green got his pro career started in the FCL for the Nats in August of last year. In his first game, he clubbed a booming home run. But he also K’d three times in that game. In A-ball this year there isn’t enough “booming” and his .359 slugging percentage won’t justify a K rate higher than Adam Dunn‘s with the Nats when he turned in a .533 SLG in his two seasons in D.C. with a 28.6% K rate that was too high for some. Dunn finished his Nats’ tenure at 21st in MVP voting in 2010. If only there was a DH in the National League back then. Sign me up for Dunn’s .910 OPS during his time with the Nats. If Green was putting up with a .910 OPS, nobody would be complaining about his K rate.
There was a reason why the evaluators cannot agree on Green who just turned 19 in December of last year, and it is that K rate. In a small sample size in the FCL, Green put all of his tools on display on his way to a .302 batting average and a lofty .939 OPS. But that 40.4% K rate in the FCL has soured some of the evaluators, and as mentioned McDaniel in particular. Even McDaniel said he was waiting to see how Green would do in April and May, only to see he was right about him.
So…the question is, can Green improve enough to be a viable player? Looking at Green overall at this point in time, he looks like a bench player to pinch-run and enter as a defensive replacement. Right, he hasn’t shown the hit or power tool, but his speed and defense are a plus.
Besides needing to show more power, it is that Green finds himself in too many two-strike counts, and he needs to be hunting early count strikes in his “happy zone” and doing damage by being more aggressive. We have seen him either take or swing and miss at too many mistake pitches early in counts.
The other problem that nobody is talking about is that Green, a right-handed batter, has not shown up against left-handed pitching. He is just 4-25 (.160) against southpaws with no extra base hits. I have not seen this mentioned anywhere else. That is also troubling, but a small sample size.
“You usually don’t improve contact rates going from high school to pro ball. I did not understand drafting a player like this, a project, at the top of the draft. He needs a lot of work to teach him about contact. I would pull him out of where he is at, and spend a lot of time in the cage on swing basics. No joking here — maybe get his eyes checked.”— A former hitting coach told us about Green
Everyone has an opinion. Green has shown some improvement — but not enough. What you do with him going forward is a key. Brenner Cox was just demoted from Green’s team to the Florida Complex League. The Nats have a problem here with their top pick from last year’s draft — let’s see if they can solve it.
Yesterday, I wrote this piece after the Baseball America rankings came out and saved it for today to publish it. I had a Stephen Strasburg “anniversary” tribute piece to publish yesterday which took precedence. This morning I read Andrew Golden’s article on Green, and came back to edit and add this paragraph. Part of the basics is to trust the process and not the results, because over time, the results will even out with luck. In small sample sizes, that is where results are skewed — good and bad. The process is always the key. It is about approach and a strategy of making good contact. I wanted to link Golden’s article and this quote:
“First month and a half, I was kind of results-oriented. But now like I’m just trusting the process. And I know the hard work I put in is going to show up during the game.”— Green told Golden for the article
You will never get a hit on a swing and miss or a strikeout. Contact is important to allow BABIP to work in your favor. Hopefully something clicks in here with Green. He is a good kid, and works hard. Also, he is still a teenager. Baseball is difficult.