On Thursday, 24-year old OF-Greg Golson was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers to make room for Khalil Greene. Now that he is fresh on the market, does he fit into the present or future of the Kansas City Royals? Let’s take a look to find out.
Before we get to the topic at hand, I wanted to address Eric Byrnes who was outright released by the Diamondbacks on Wednesday after being DFA’d by the Diamondbacks on January 15th. Byrnes is now free to sign with any team for the major league minimum, while Arizona will be paying him $11 million to not be a part of their team. He has put up an OPS+ in the 60s the last two seasons and now has a career mark of 94. Byrnes turns 34 next month, and despite consecutive down seasons, figures to land a contract with someone. I haven’t seen rumored interest from any team for the services of Mr. Byrnes, but a week ago he said that he’d like to play for the Giants. The Royals OF is already overcrowded at the major league level and I don’t see Byrnes joining any team on a minor league deal. He probably doesn’t have any interest in playing in Kansas City and the Royals shouldn’t have any interest in him. Due to these factors he won’t be the subject of his own Market Fresh article.
Greg Golson does get his own article, because unlike Byrnes, he figures to land somewhere by way of a minor league contract and also because he’s young. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1st round, 21st pick overall, of the 2004 draft. At the time he was drafted, he was widely regarded as the best athlete available with five-tool potential. On November 20th, 2008 the Phillies traded him to Texas to acquire the services of John Mayberry Jr. His major league resume consists of 6 at bats with Philadelphia in 2008 and 1 at bat with Texas in 2009. He’s still looking for his first major league hit. He has played primarily CF but has seen some time in RF as well. His experience in LF has been limited to a handful of games.
In six minor league seasons Golson has hit 0.263/.308/.395 with 48 HR, 140 SB, 152 BB, and 737 SO in 2,558 AB. Take a second look at the back end of that stat line. He whiffs 4.8 times for every 1 time he draws a walk. When a manager goes to write his name on the lineup card, one thing is a near certainty. Greg Golson is going to strike out at some point in the game. 634 games played to go with 737 strike outs. That works out to 1.2 SO/G.
In 2005 he was ranked as the Phillies 4th best prospect. When the 2006 season rolled around, he had moved up to the team’s 3rd best prospect. In 2007 he had dropped to 10th, but still had the “best speed, center-field skills and outfield arm in the system,” according to Baseball America. Entering the 2008 season Golson had re-entered the Phillies top-10 ranking as the 7th best prospect in their system after showing signs in 2007. The plate discipline issues, always a common theme in his BA profiles, were featured more prominently in the 2008 Prospect Handbook.
"Golson’s ability to recognize pitches remains his biggest liability. He especially struggles with breaking balls and tends to get tangled up thinking about what he should do at the plate rather than just seeing the ball and cutting loose."
Clearly, ranking 7th in the Phillies system, the assessment wasn’t all bad. In fact, his tools were compared to those of a “young Ron Gant” and BA also referenced Philadelphia’s belief that defensively he was ready to play CF at the major league level.
Heading into the 2009 season, now as a part of the Texas Rangers system, Golson’s prospect ranking dropped to 26th, but it wasn’t due to a lack of results. His decline in ranking had to do, primarily, with the change in organizations. He left the Phillies who had the 22nd best farm system in 2008 to the Rangers top ranked farm system in 2009. In fact, Golson was coming off his best season as a professional after hitting 0.282/.333/.434 with 13 HR and 23 SB in 426 Double-A at bats. He also improved his pitch recognition with a 130-34 K-BB ratio.
2009 was his first year in Triple-A and he hit 0.258/.299/.344 with 20 SB, 29 BB, and 114 BB in 457 AB. It wasn’t a train wreck of a season, but it wasn’t a step forward either. Perhaps the most concerning thing about his 2009 is that he hit just 2 HR after hitting at least 13 HR in each of the previous three seasons.
Golson is intriguing because of his plus-plus speed and his defensive ability. He is more than capable of playing major league defense in CF with his speed, range, and strong arm. When he makes contact he shows good pop, and his power would play just fine at the major league level. The question mark with Golson is whether or not his plate discipline and pitch recognition will ever develop enough to make him an asset at the plate. He has shown improvement in this area the last two years after leading the minors in SO in 2007. Considering he continued that improvement in 2009 while playing in AAA for the first time, it is very possible that he could take a major step forward in 2010.
The Royals should consider signing Greg Golson to a minor league contract for 2010 to see if he can continue his development at the plate in Omaha. If the organization wants Jarrod Dyson to play CF in Triple-A, Golson has the arm strength and instincts to hold down RF so both players can play every day. Greg already profiles as a major league defensive replacement and pinch runner and while the Royals major league OF is currently packed, things look to be wide open in 2011.