Whether fair or not, being a first round pick carries lofty expectations. In the case of Phillies prospect Larry Greene, my assumption was that the young outfielder would be the best player on the field when seeing him play about a month ago. To my surprise, he wound up being the third best prospect on his own team behind shortstop Roman Quinn and third baseman Mitch Walding whom I’ve written about recently.
Video after the jump
Greene’s issues begin with his build. Listed at six feet tall and 235 pounds (he may have been a bit heavier in person), Greene’s bound to be limited defensively and on the basepaths. This means most, if not all of his value on the field is tied to his bat. With his barrel chest and size through the lower half, Greene projects for power which certainly helps a bat only profile.
But as Prince Fielder has shown during his 2006 and 2008 seasons which yielded 28 and 34 home runs respectively, power alone does not equal value (3.0 WAR combined in those two seasons). Of course Fielder was crushing full season baseball to the tune of .313/.409/.526 in Beloit of the Midwest League at 19. Greene is limping along with a triple slash line .255/.362/.357 in short season baseball at the same point in his development. Needless to say this raises concerns about how big the bat will become.
As for Greene’s bat, he put on a moderately impressive batting practice display including a handful of long home runs. And while I can’t question the raw strength, his lack of explosion through the baseball was a surprise considering Greene’s reputation as one of the better pure power prospects in the 2011 draft. Additionally, his swing was long — especially in game action — caused by a set up which included holding the bat off the ear causing an overly long load. The result was bat speed which presented as just average to a tick below.
When watching a hitter in game action, one wants to see rhythm throughout the swing. With Greene, his swing reminded me of a door opening and shutting due to a pause in the back of his load which sapped power and hurt timing. Hopefully coaching will tweak Greene’s pre-swing load and allow his hands to find the hitting position sooner. Shorten that and maybe the other pieces fall into place. As it stands now, Greene doesn’t project to hit enough to offset the weaker parts of his game.
On defense, simply writing that Greene’s range is “limited” would be an understatement. For me, he is a future first baseman. In game action, Greene badly misplayed two balls and turned a looping line drive to his back hand into a circus-worthy chain of events. On throws, his arm was below average as well. In seeing Jonathan Singleton as a teenager in the South Atlantic League prior to the Phillies failed attempt at turning him into a left fielder, I’m comfortable saying Singleton’s movements were more fluid and he was a visibly better athlete compared to Greene. If Singleton could not make the switch successfully, it’s impossible for me to project Greene as being able to remain in left field long term.
On the basepaths, Greene was not slow for his size, but projects to slow down in time due to his build and a perceived lack of agility. This also contributes to the first base projection.
For Larry Greene, the future is simple. Find a way to crush baseballs consistently or fade into former prospect obscurity. Having seen a number of very good to great big leaguers at the same age, Greene has an uphill battle ahead of him. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to follow up with Greene next season as he should open 2013 with Lakewood of the South Atlantic League. Maybe a fall in instructs will do him wonders and completely change the profile should he make offensive adjustments and either lean up, or switch positions. For now, it’s simply too big of a gap between what Greene is and what he needs to be for me to see a projection of big league regular in his future.