Scouting Rangers Prospect #43: Greg Golson

The New York Yankees acquired outfielder Greg Golson from the Texas Rangers on Tuesday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout takes an in-depth look at the 24-year-old, who ranked 43rd in this year's Top 50 Rangers Prospects list.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Greg Golson
Position: Outfield
DOB: September 17, 1985
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2008 trade from Philadelphia Phillies for OF John Mayberry, Jr.

Last offseason, the Texas Rangers acquired outfielder Greg Golson in a rare prospect-for-prospect swap of two former first-round picks.

Neither player had quite lived up to expectations. Mayberry, the 19th overall selection in the 2005 Draft, had yet to reach the Majors after over 1,700 minor league at-bats. Golson, the 21st pick in the '04 Draft, had suffered many of the same troubles. Both outfielders were loaded with raw skills, yet both often struggled to make consistent enough contact.

Golson and Mayberry essentialy switched spots at the beginning of the 2009 season. Golson manned right field for Triple-A Oklahoma City, while Mayberry filled the same spot at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The Rangers hoped a chance of scenery [plus some mechanical adjustments] would help the Austin native reach his ceiling–or at least develop into a solid big league outfielder. But the results never came.

In 123 games with the RedHawks, the prospect batted just .253 with 17 doubles, eight triples, and two home runs. He drew only 29 walks while striking out 114 times. His speed and defensive skills electrified onlookers and often caused scouts to raise an eyebrow or two, but his production at the plate [.299 OBP, .643 OPS] simply wasn't enough to warrant a Major League look for the six-year pro veteran.

Golson's ultimate fate with the Rangers appeared to be sealed last September, when he was officially passed on the depth chart by Double-A Frisco outfielder Craig Gentry.

Gentry shares many of Golson's same qualities–plus glove, plus arm, plus speed. The difference was that, in Gentry's breakout 2009 with the RoughRiders, he showed excellent plate discipline, and his raw hitting and power skills began to kick in.

The Rangers rewarded Gentry with a 40-man roster spot and a September call-up. Although Golson was also on the 40-man [he appeared in one game with the Rangers in May], he returned home when the minor league season came to a conclusion.

On January 21, Texas designated Golson for assignment to clear roster room for starting pitcher Colby Lewis. And on Tuesday afternoon, the 24-year-old was traded to the Yankees for minor league infielder Mitch Hilligoss.

Also See: Sizing up the outfield prospects (October 1, 2009)

Batting and Power: When he came out of Austin's John B. Connally High School in 2004, Golson was regarded as a raw hitter that possessed the tools to hit for both average and power. Between 2004 and 2009, he moved through the minor league ranks as largely the same hitter–lots of power that showed up from time to time, but also lots of swings and misses without many walks.

Golson altered his approach slightly when he joined the Rangers' organization prior to the 2009 season. He shortened his stroke a bit and developed more of a slap-ish approach. The result was a lower strikeout rate [still quite a few, with 114 in 457 at-bats], but also less power [.344 slugging percentage].

If Golson continues to work on shortening his stroke, he could increase his chances of becoming a regular big leaguer, even if it takes away most of his raw power. The former first-round pick is best served using his speed to his advantage to get on base, and that includes using more of a contact-first approach while also utilizing the small-ball bunting game.

Base Running and Speed: Golson has plus-plus speed, and he has developed into a strong baserunner during his six seasons of professional baseball. Baseball Time in Arlington's Jason Parks clocked the right-handed Golson at 4.1 seconds from home plate to first base at Double-A Reading in 2008. Golson stole 24 bases in 29 attempts with the Phillies organization that year, and he swiped 20 in 24 tries while notching eight triples at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season. Even though Golson's power declined in '09, his speed gives him the ability to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Defense: Golson's excellent speed is part of what makes him a plus defender. He has the glove and range to play all three outfield spots, and he has spent most of his career playing center and right field. For the most part, Golson gets good reads on fly balls and, while his first step isn't always the best, his speed generally allows him to make up for any early mistakes. With Julio Borbon manning centerfield for much of the Triple-A season last year, Golson spent most of his time in right field, where his plus-plus arm [70 on the 20-80 scouting scale] plays well. Golson has a laser arm with outstanding accuracy.

Projection: Because Golson still possesses all the raw tools that made him the 21st overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, his potential is still through the roof. However, after five full seasons in professional baseball, the outfielder still struggles to hit with any consistency, and he looks unlikely to become a regular player in the Majors. He could still prove to be a valuable asset to a team looking for premium speed and outfield defense at the end of their bench. Given the lack of a designated hitter and need for pinch runners and defensive replacements in the National League, he may eventually wind up carving out a career as a reserve outfielder on an NL club.

2010 Outlook: All of Golson's tools are Major League ready–except his bat. Even before he was designated for assignment by the Rangers on January 21, Golson's future with the Texas organization appeared to be in doubt. Now, after the trade to the Yankees, Golson joins New York's 40-man roster, and he should still see big league action, although it may not be significant. His speed and defense can help any big league club, but until his bat develops, his Major League playing time will likely be limited, particularly in the American League.

ETA: 2010.

2004 GCL Phillies (RK) .295 183 8 1 22 34 12 10 54 .345 .410
2005 Lakewood (A) .264 375 19 4 27 51 25 26 106 .322 .389
2006 Lakewood (A) .220 387 15 7 31 56 23 19 107 .258 .333
Clearwater (A+) .264 159 11 6 17 31 7 11 53 .324 .472
2007 Clearwater (A+) .285 418 27 12 52 66 25 21 124 .322 .450
Reading (AA) .242 153 5 3 16 20 5 2 49 .255 .359
2008 Reading (AA) .282 426 18 13 60 64 23 34 130 .333 .434
Philadelphia (MLB) .000 6 0 0 0 2 1 0 4 .000 .000
2009 Oklahoma City (AAA) .258 457 17 2 40 46 20 29 114 .299 .344
Texas (MLB) .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000

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