There was a time not that long ago that many scouts and pundits alike had Greg Golson rated as a better prospect than the likes of Ryan Howard in the Phillies' organization. Times have changed and now, Golson is battling the misconception that he's no longer a prospect. His rankings have fallen, but it's important to remember that he was drafted out of high school and although he hasn't progressed as quickly as some would have liked, he's still got a good future ahead of him.
At just 21 years of age, Golson has learned a lot and still has some more learning to do. He's got loads of potential and all of the raw tools that he'll need to keep climbing closer and closer to the majors. Odds are that this season will tell a lot about what kind of future Golson is going to have for himself. Will he turn into another Jeff Jackson and not climb much higher than he already has? Will he be like Reggie Taylor and maybe get a shot with a major league team only to struggle and fall by the way side? Or, will he show that he still has the ability to become a solid major leaguer who will help the Phillies - or possibly some other team - at some point down the road?
Greg Golson's career stats
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the first round of the 2004 Draft out of John Connally High School in Austin, Texas.
Batting and Power: Here's another young kid with plenty of speed to burn who prefers to try to hit the long ball so he won't have to use his speed. Imagine how different the world would be if ESPN showed highlight after highlight of runners stealing bases rather than hitting home runs. Instead, guys like Golson waste their time and talents swinging hard in case they hit the ball. For Golson, that's translated to one strikeout every 3.5 at bats and has killed his ability to truly use his speed. Golson has just enough power to think that he can live on hitting the long ball and he'll find out one way or another that he's wrong. He needs to concentrate on learning the strike zone and simply put the bat on the ball. A .304 on-base percentage for a kid like this is a shame.
Baserunning and Speed: This is Golson's biggest tool and it goes mostly untapped. Instead of having 66 stolen bases over three seasons, he should be pushing the 100 mark. He has great speed and decent instincts on the bases. If he can up his on-base percentage he can take advantage of his speed and make it a bigger part of his game. Golson gets a great, quick first step whether it's out of the batter's box, running the bases or on defense and his acceleration is nearly remarkable.
Defense: If you ignore his speed, then defense is Golson's greatest attribute. He has a strong, accurate arm and has 31 outfield assists in his minor league career. His speed allows him to get to balls that other outfielders only dream of reaching. He's athletic enough to play any of the outfield positions although center field is probably his strongest spot. If he pulls his game together, he could have the center fielders above him on the depth chart looking over their shoulder and wondering how long it will be until they'll be looking up at Greg Golson.
Projection: It's all about finding the ability to get on base. It's somewhat ironic that of all Golson's tools, power is probably the weakest and that's the one that he's trying to make a living on. It has got to be frustrating to coach a kid with this much talent who simply doesn't look to use the full palate of tools that he's been given rather than trying to live and die on the long ball. If Golson doesn't put things together this season, it will look more and more like he's going to wind up on the scrap heap of great "tools guys" who wind up not having a future in baseball or living off a journeyman minor leaguer's salary. Golson could start at Double-A, but it's likely he'll be sticking at Clearwater to start the year with the hope that he'll develop more discipline and put up much better numbers.
ETA: At this point, it's not a matter of wondering when Golson will reach the majors, but if Golson will reach the majors. The Phillies thought he would be easily going to Double-A Reading this Spring with a full head of steam. Instead, he will be fighting to see Reading and won't have much momentum when he gets there unless it's a late season move after he tears things up at Clearwater.
Comparison: Golson could just as easily be compared to Jeff Jackson as he could Shane Victorino. The difference is in whether or not he sticks with trying to hit the long ball and becomes more like Jackson or if he learns to use everything he's got and becomes more of a Victorino type player who simply looks to make things happen.