By JAY LeBLANC
June 9, 2008
Greg Golson is hitting .294 as a member of the double-A Reading Phillies this season. That’s a solid average, but nothing to get overly excited about on its own merits; there have been plenty of players who hit for a higher average at that level and never so much as sipped a cup of big league coffee. But when you consider that Baseball America ranks Golson - who entered this season with a .260 career average as a pro - as the Philadelphia organization’s best power hitter, fastest baserunner, best athlete, best outfield defender and the owner of its best outfield arm, his average could represent the final piece of the puzzle in his evolution as a five-tool prospect.
The 22-year-old Golson, who was drafted 21st overall by the Phillies out of high school in 2004, has been one of the better players in the Eastern League so far this season. In addition to his solid average, he’s slugged seven home runs and ranks third in the circuit with 16 stolen bases. He’s also played outstanding defense in center field, making several catches that would have been replayed over and over on SportsCenter if he were playing with the Philadelphia Phillies rather than the Reading Phillies. All that’s holding Golson back at this point is poor plate discipline; he’s struck out a whopping 74 times in 238 at bats this season while drawing just 13 walks. I recently had a chance to speak with Philadelphia’s No. 7 prospect:
Q: What was your first reaction when you found out you’d been drafted by the Phillies? Did you know they were looking to pick you?
A: I kind of knew a little bit, but I didn’t know they were serious enough to take me in the first round. I really thought the Twins were going to take me, so I was surprised - I was happy, but I was really surprised the Phillies took me.
Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you go into an at-bat looking for a specific pitch, or do you just react to what’s thrown?
A: For the most past it’s just reacting, trying to let the ball get deeper - it keeps me from swinging at bad pitches. But for the most part, I try to hit the ball deep and see it good.
Q: Besides speed, what qualities does a good base stealer need to have?
A: You’ve got to be real observant of what the pitcher is doing, if they fall into patterns, what the catcher is doing, the counts, the game situation - stuff like that. But speed is the big thing.
Q: What’s your favorite aspect of the game - is it hitting, defense or baserunning?
A: I’d have to say defense, because you can really impact a game, where people will remember stuff. If you hit a double, someone might remember it for a couple days, but if you make a great catch that saves the game, people remember that for a long time. It’s something that’s kind of lost in the game now, I feel like - people don’t really appreciate defense as much as offense.
Q: What are some of the aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve upon this year?
A: My two-strike approach, for the most part. I really want to use my speed a little bit more by putting the ball in play. A lot of times I get a little anxious and start swinging at bad pitches with two strikes. I just really want to put the ball in play with two strikes or take a walk every now and then.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you try to model yourself after?
A: There are a lot of guys - I like Mike Cameron and Torii Hunter; everybody loves Griffey. Pretty much the center fielders that have a lot of defensive skills as well as offensive skills. That’s why I try to model my game after them.
Q: When do you see yourself making your big league debut? Do you have a specific goal in mind?
A: (Laughs) I hope tomorrow, but I can’t really control that, so I’ve really just got to play day to day. If they call me, hopefully I’m ready, but I really can’t look at that. I’m playing in double-A right now.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and Mayor of the National Pastime web community. His Prospect Q&A column runs every Monday and Thursday throughout the season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Amanda Rice