The Brewers have a few more days before the non-waiver trade deadline to attempt to patch some holes on this team, and one hole many of us would like to see covered up is at third base, where Casey McGehee is having a nightmare season.
If you've been hanging around this site or many others for the last couple of months, you've probably heard a fair amount about Nashville third baseman Taylor Green and his status as a potential alternative at the position. As of Saturday Green was hitting .316/.402/.542 in his first AAA season, his sixth in the Brewer organization.
Obviously, it's easy to look at Green's impressive stat line and make a case that he deserves a shot in the big leagues. Your expectations for his performance, though, probably depend on which of these two stories you believe:
Option 1: Green is finally healthy and returning to form as a top prospect.
Not that long ago, Green was one of the top prospects in a relatively talented Brewer organization. In 2008 John Sickels listed Green as a B- prospect, behind Manny Parra, Mat Gamel and Matt LaPorta in the Brewer organization but even with Jonathan Lucroy and ahead of Zach Braddock, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. He was the Brewers' minor league player of the year in 2007 and in 2008, as a 21 year old in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, he hit .289/.382/.443.
Then, a wrist injury struck and limited Green to 93 games in 2009 between Wisconsin and Huntsville. He was back as a full time player in Huntsville in 2010 but his batting line (.260/.336/.438) was much more pedestrian.
As you probably know from watching Rickie Weeks, it can take a long time for a player with a history of wrist issues to regain his power. You can make a case that 2011 is the first time we've seen Green at full strength since 2008, and his impressive batting line is an indication that he's trending back towards his full potential to be a solid big league regular.
Option 2: Green is having a career year in a hitter friendly league.
The Pacific Coast League is one of the most offense-enhanced minor leagues in all of affiliated baseball, with the league average hitter posting a .286/.360/.453 line in 2011. The league is scoring 5.61 runs per game, which is almost 25% more than the 4.11 per game being scored in the NL.
Those inflated numbers make it hard to take some players' stat lines seriously. George Kottaras, for example, hit .343/.432/.559 in 29 games for Nashville earlier this year. He's a solid major league backup catcher, but those numbers aren't a fair reflection of his true talent level.
Green wouldn't be the first Brewer minor leaguer to generate a fair amount of attention with a big season in AAA. Those of you who have been around this site since 2009 will likely remember Adam Heether. He was a fairly unheralded minor leaguer who became a bit of a cult hero around here by posting a .296/.396/.506 line for Nashville in 2009. The next year, Heether's AAA OPS dropped back down to .737. He's still in AAA in the A's organization.
Heether isn't a perfect comp for Green: For one thing, Green is three years younger than Heether was during his big year. But Heether and others like him (Royals first baseman Kila Ka-aihue, for example) serve as reminders that not every guy who puts up a flashy stat line in AAA can repeat it at the next level.
We're really only having this conversation because Casey McGehee has struggled so mightily in 2011. If McGehee was hitting anything close to last year's .285/.337/.464 line, there would be nowhere for Green to play in the majors and the debate about his prospect status would be something of a moot point.
With that said, I think it's important to note that Green isn't a lock to be an instant MLB contributor either. And even if it's true that he can't be significantly worse than McGehee at this point, I think McGehee's upside would be a fairly significant thing to sacrifice to create playing time for a guy who might not perform noticeably better.