Cubs Hoping for ‘Golden' Results

The Chicago Cubs took a raw but toolsy high school outfielder in the second round of the MLB draft Tuesday in 18-year-old Reggie Golden.

The right-handed hitting Golden, listed as 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, hit 36 home runs in his prep career at Wetumpka High School in Wetumpka, Ala. He committed to the University of Alabama prior to being drafted with the No. 65 overall pick.

The Cubs' decision to draft Golden caught the outfielder by surprise.

"I was actually shocked to get a call by the Cubs," Golden said Wednesday. "I really didn't think they were interested, but I'm glad I got picked by the Cubs."

It was a smart pick, Wetumpka coach Ray Mullino said.

"He's got quick hands and benches 300 pounds. He's flexible and just one of those exceptional athletes that come along only every now and then," said Mullino, a 25th-round Cubs draft pick in 1986 who attended Mississippi State University.

"Ever since he was in the eighth grade, he was always a little bit bigger and stronger than everybody else. He just seemed to run a little bit faster, throw a little bit harder and hit a little bit further, and that continued all the way up into high school."

The Cubs saw Golden at several showcases last summer, including the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic at San Diego's Petco Park and the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.

Getting to show off his swing at major league parks was quite the experience, Golden said, and during his visit to Wrigley, Golden displayed his power potential by launching a home run to left field that almost landed on Waveland Avenue.

"It was very fun for me," he said. "I got to meet new people and play with them and that's always fun. (The Cubs' scouts) were probably at some of my high school games before that, but I didn't meet any of them until Chicago."

Golden missed most of his senior season (he was limited to 50 at-bats, Mullino said) due to a hamstring injury sustained on Wetumpka's second day of practice.

"It was 30 degrees outside, man," Golden recalled. "We were running and doing sprints. I took off for home from third and that's when it happened."

The Cubs and other teams weren't concerned about any lingering effects from the injury as Golden had been projected as a late first- or second-round pick by most analysts leading up to the draft.

"There are no repercussions" with regards to the hamstring, Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken said. "There's a fair amount of people that didn't get to see him early (this past season), but our reports later on had him coming on a bit. We had a collective workout where he showed up and looked pretty good."

In the outfield, Golden saw playing time in both center and right field. He spent most of the last two years at Wetumpka in right because he had the strongest arm on the team, but Golden said he prefers center.

"I get good jumps on the ball," he said. "I think everybody has me listed as right field, but centerfield really is my primary position."

Mullino rated Golden's defense better than average.

"I would say (he rates) very high because he's one of those guys that just has instinct," the coach said. "At the crack of the bat, you look up and he's already taken two steps just because of the anticipation. With him being so fast, he gets good jumps on it. And his arm strength, I think they had him at 96 (mph) throwing in the outfield, so he has a strong arm."

Like any player that is considered high-risk, high-reward, Golden has his share of flaws. Scouts agree he has the potential to develop into a five-tool player one day, but Golden remains humble and recognizes his shortcomings.

In a recent interview with the Wetumpka Daily Herald, Golden said he didn't like to think of himself as a five-tool player because those players "think they have it all. I know I have room to grow. I think I've got a lot of improving to do."

To that end, Golden said he would like to work on making more contact and improving his pitch selection. He has a tendency of being "over-aggressive," Mullino said.

"Some pitches you've just got to foul off until you get something you can handle," he said. "Pitch selection would be one (area for improvement). Waiting on the ball to get to him would be another. He just gets so aggressive and once he becomes a little more patient and realizes pro ball is going to be different, I think that he'll be able to become a better hitter.

"He's learning patience now. He had to this year because he'd get up there and they'd throw him four straight curveballs, and he'd swing at them or take a walk to first. He had 18 walks, so he's learned to do that. He's still an 18-year-old kid, but he has more potential than anybody I played with when I was in pro ball and college."

Golden's decision on whether to begin his professional career later this summer will in large part depend on what the Cubs offer as a signing bonus. If he doesn't sign, there's always his commitment to Alabama.

"It all depends on my signing bonus and whether it's worth it or not," Golden said, adding that he doesn't have a set figure in mind. "A few of my advisors are meeting (soon) to figure all that out."

On the whole, Golden admits he has kept his excitement in check the past two days.

"I just look at this as an opportunity," Golden said of being drafted. "They're giving me an opportunity to get to the show, so I'm trying to take the best advantage of that as I can. The reason I'm not excited is because I'm not there yet."

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