Could Josh Donaldson Be Oakland Athletics' Future Shortstop?

By Karl Buscheck
Grant Green
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Today, the Oakland Athletics made a long-awaited move when they designated Adam Rosales for assignment. With Rosales getting sent out, former first-round pick Grant Green will be making his MLB debut.

Offensively, this could be a huge upgrade. The 25-year-old Green was hitting .318 with 25 doubles, 11 home runs and an .874 OPS for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. Rosales, meanwhile, was 3-for-22 in his last 10 games with the club. Interestingly enough, Rosales also hit 11 home runs as a 25 year old in Triple-A, although he needed about 80 more at-bats to reach that total.

Defensively, however, this is definitely a downgrade. Reports on Green’s defense at second base have been less than stellar, and the player who was drafted as a shortstop out of USC back in 2009 definitely can’t play shortstop at the MLB level.

That means Jed Lowrie will now become the club’s everyday shortstop. Lowrie’s defense at short (and also at second) has been underwhelming, as he has a suspect arm and a less-than-extensive range. Sure, the guy can absolutely swing it — he already has 12 three-hit games in 2013 — but shortstop and catcher are the two positions on the field where a weak defender can severely hamstring a team.

Perhaps the guy who should be playing short for the Athletics is already on the team. Josh Donaldson came up as a catcher, and he spent most of his time in the minor leagues either behind the plate or at third base. He also made some cameos at first, second, the corner outfield spots, and one game at shortstop last year in Triple-A.

Donaldson actually played a couple of inning at short this season for the A’s, but didn’t have anything hit his way. He has already transitioned into an elite defender at the hot corner as evidenced by his impressive play in 2103.

On June 30, in the Athletics’ win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Donaldson made an outrageous play as he  raced into the expansive foul territory at the Coliseum to chase down a pop-up. Right as the 27-year-old caught the ball, he crashed into the tarp that rests along the edge of the field. His momentum sent his legs high into the air as he was wedged between the tarp and the wall.

The third baseman popped up instantly, with the ball still safely secured within his glove.

Josh Donaldson
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As Donaldson stood on the infield dirt — just a few feet from Lowrie — I couldn’t help but wonder why the clearly superior athlete was playing third base. Certainly, shortstop and third base are quite different positions, so Donaldson’s success at third doesn’t mean he’d necessarily excel at short.

But shortstop is the most athletically-demanding position on the field, and outside of Yoenis Cespedes when he’s in the mood, Donaldson might just be the most athletic guy on the club.

It’s probably far too big of a switch to pull off midseason, so maybe it should be shelved until the offseason — if it’s considered at all. Then again, Donaldson will apparently have a few days off next week, so it couldn’t hurt for him to take a few ground balls at short.

Karl Buscheck is an Oakland Athletics writer for Follow him on Twitter @KarlBuscheck and add him to your network on Google+.

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