Green adjusting for the pros

Posted: July 25, 2014

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - It is hard enough to play professional baseball. It is even harder when you are constantly changing positions.

Zach Green, who plays for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, is accustomed to adjusting, and often. He was a shortstop for his high school team in Carmichael, Calif., but knew he would have to switch positions in order to play pro.

He passed on a scholarship offer to Oregon State to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in the third round in 2012. While he wanted to play for Oregon State, he knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity with the Phillies.

"It was an easy decision, not to say anything bad about Oregon State," Green said. "It's a great school to go to especially for baseball. But the Phillies gave me a great opportunity for something that I have always wanted to do since I can remember. I was happy to take the offer."

After he signed, he had to switch to third base. Making the adjustment was not easy, moving from a middle-infield position to the hot corner. The change was harder than just the ball getting to him quicker, which it does at third base.

"Baseball is a hard game," saidGreen, who turned 20 in March. "Anytime you are out of your comfort zone it makes it that much harder. That was the hardest thing about the switch."

This year, Green made another switch. Even though he still sees a few games at third, he has played a chunk of games at first. But that adjustment wasn't as difficult.

"The transition from third to first wasn't as big as a middle infield spot to third base," Green said. "The ball gets on you a lot quicker. The transition from third to first really hasn't been a big deal. I like a challenge, and that was definitely a challenge."

"He looks good over there at first," BlueClaws manager Greg Legg said. "Here and there he is having some plays that he has never experienced in the game. He has done a real fine job over there so far. We will probably get him a game at third real soon."

While Green has gone through some adversity in the field, his strong suit remains his presence at the plate. At 6-3, 210 pounds, he has the body of a corner infielder and generates a lot of power with his swing. He has only played 50 games this year due to a back and hip injury, but is slugging .393, with 29 RBI. He finds a way to drive guys in when the opportunity presents itself.

"Zach is one of those guys you want up there when runners are on base," Legg said. "He has a knack for driving them in. No matter what happened in all the other at-bats before that, if he has been struggling, he gets them in somehow, some way. If he is hot, he keeps getting them in. Those guys are special. It is hard to find the guys that drive in runs, and he is one of those guys."

"I do an all right job of handling a fastball, which is really important in this game," Green said humbly.

One of Green's downfalls at the plate continues to be his ability to hit a curveball. He has 38 strikeouts this year, and has a tendency to chase a bad curve.

"I'll hit a hanging curveball good, I just chased the bad ones," Green said with a chuckle. "I think that can be a mixture of a mental adjustment or just having my foot down and seeing the ball earlier. I think the best thing I can do about that is go out and play the game and win every night."

Green said that sometimes it is hard to shrug off a bad at-bat, but he is learning to do so in the minor leagues. He was ranked 15th among Phillies prospects after the 2013 season by Baseball America after hitting .252 with 13 home runs in Williamsport. Though this year has not been as good as last, he is learning how to bounce back from bad games.

"Making the adjustment to your next at-bat, that is how you stay successful at this game," Green said. "The hardest thing for me has been to make that adjustment in my next at-bat and really try to make it better that next swing. That has been the thing I've struggled with the most."

He is currently hitting .264 with Lakewood, and making strides playing both first and third. Legg said that he will go "as far as his bat will take him" in the Phillies system. Green, on the other hand, sees room for improvement across the board.

"I can get a lot better at everything," Green said. "All around defense, baserunning and definitely hitting. That's what I look forward to. That's where I see myself, getting better everyday."

Prospect Park

Catching up with five notable Phillies farmhands:

1. Maikel Franco, 3B, Lehigh Valley: Franco sat out two games with back tightness, but was back on the field last night. He is having a good July, hitting .333. Stats: .232, 6 HR, 46 RBI

2. Aaron Nola, P, Clearwater: The Phillies are limiting Nola’s starts to five innings, which he has reached in his last three starts. In his most recent, the 2014 first-round draft choice gave up two runs on five hits. Stats: 1-3, 3.80 ERA, 18 K, 3 BB in 21-1/3 innings

3. J.P. Crawford, SS, Clearwater: Crawford is finally finding his swing, hitting .353 in his last 10 games with the Threshers. Stats: .276, 4 HR, 10 RBI

4. Carlos Tocci, OF, Lakewood: Tocci has found a rhythm with the bat in July, hitting .309. He has yet to find the power stroke, as 17 of his 25 hits in the month have been singles. Stats: .251, 1 HR, 25 RBI

5. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, P, Reading: Gonzales has been pitching well, trying to get his velocity back up. The reliever has only given up a run in two of his eight appearances with Reading, with one coming on Sunday. Stats: 0-1, 1.80 ERA, 4 SV

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