|Larry Greene Jr, Image- Tug Haines
Prior to being drafted, in his senior year of high school, the lefty batting Greene became an All-American, posting a .536 average in 30 games with 11 doubles, 19 home runs and 52 RBI while drawing 37 walks. Expectations on the baseball diamond were high and Greene turned down offers to play college football and baseball, electing to sign with the Phillies following the draft.
In his first full season of pro ball in 2012, Greene played with short-season Class A Williamsport where he posted a promising .270 average with 22 doubles and 26 RBI in 70 contests. Williamsport's home park, Bowman Field, is notoriously difficult on hitters, so the lack of power numbers was not concerning even for a guy who had developed a reputation for being a big time power hitter.
Moving forward, Greene's 2013 season was rough to say the least. Billed at six feet tall and weighing 235 pounds, the youngster reported to spring training out of shape and was held back at extended spring training when the regular season began. Greene had become a new father and indicated in one interview with me that perhaps enjoying fatherhood during the winter months had gotten a bit in the way of staying fit.
After shedding some pounds throughout the exhibition season, Greene was assigned to Class A Lakewood, where he struggled quite a bit. In 34 games combined during April and May, Greene batted .178 with five doubles and 13 RBI. Through the remainder of the season, Greene improved his offensive output, sporting a .227 average with 17 doubles, a triple and four homers in 77 games.
While Greene can be selective and draw walks, his focus on being aggressive at the plate, and possibly trying to live up to his reputation of being a masher, resulted in his strike out rate shooting way up last year (35.7%) over his figure the previous year in the New York-Penn League (25.7%).
The Phillies brass still very much believes in Greene, who they feel will develop the power that the 20-year-old still regularly displayed in batting practice, even at pitcher-friendly venues like Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park. His quick bat and uppercut swing project very positively from the left side.
This off-season, Greene participated in the Fall Instructional League and attended the Phillies' Dominican baseball academy in November. Getting extra time on the field with additional instructors and coaches overseeing his every move will certainly be beneficial to a prospect with the kind of expectations that earned him a $1 million signing bonus.
With his legs, Greene is certainly quicker than he appears. With major league average speed getting to first base out of the box, Greene could develop into a guy that can help his team on the bases with the right instincts, going first-to-third and things like that.
Defensively, Greene is a pretty good left fielder and has some quality range. The Phillies are excited about the ceiling he has in the outfield, already seeing the right development relating to his reaction time on batted balls and improving on his ability to nail runners on the bases.
Sporting a very solid BABIP of .357 along with that concerning strike out rate, in his two minor league seasons, the focus for Greene has to be making more contact this year. The Georgia native, who will turn 21 years old by the start of spring training, is likely best suited to begin his 2014 campaign back with the Class A BlueClaws in order to build his confidence and show that he can handle that level.