When he was taken with their first pick in the 2011 draft, Larry Greene Jr. was billed as the Phillies’ power source of the future. Two years later, the Valdosta, GA native has just a pair of home runs as a pro and none above the short-season rookie level. A lack of ability to put the ball beyond the outfield walls hasn’t soured the organization on the youngster, as coaches and organizational brass are still confident he can develop into the type of offensive threat they thought he could be, when they drafted him two years ago.
After beginning last season in extended spring training, Greene would man left field for the Williamsport Crosscutters, batting .272 while lacing two home runs and driving in 26 runs in 70 games. Over the off-season, time spent with a newborn at home seemed to prevent the young slugger from keeping up with his workout routine and he showed up to spring training less fit than the team liked and he was kept in extended spring training, once again, to open the 2013 season, in order to work off some weight.
Since being assigned to Class A Lakewood in late April, the 6-foot tall 235-pounder is struggling with his average, batting .183 with five doubles, a triple, no home runs and 14 RBI. Faced with troubling offensive stats, most glaringly, his lack of power, Greene is staying focused on improving his game, although he’s not as disappointed with the homer totals as others might be.
“I really don’t think about home runs,” Greene said in an exclusive interview. “I just try to hit the ball hard and I’ll take hits all day, a home run don’t really matter to me. Right now, I just want to improve and get better every day. But, when it comes, it’ll come.”
As for what improvements Greene is working on, to develop the power potential that the Phillies once raved about, the organization’s coaches are confident they’ve identified flaws in Greene’s approach and feel they’ll be able to maximize what their prospect can do at the plate.
Lakewood manager Mickey Morandini asserts that the game plan, to adjust what he calls a high maintenance swing, is clear and the home runs will come for the youngster.
“We had to make some adjustments trying to get him to stay on his back side a little bit more and stay through the ball. He’s just got to stay on the ball a little bit better and let the ball come to him and not be quite as loopy in his swing. It’s getting there, it’s getting there. It’s gonna be a process for him,” Morandini said.
Lakewood’s manager, a former big league All-Star as a member of the Phillies, also praises Greene’s abilities as key reasons why he’s so confident that his player’s production at the plate will improve.
“He’s got great hands, he’s got great hand-eye coordination, he knows the strike zone real well, but he’s just got to stay on that back side and start driving the ball a bit more,” Morandini stated.
Backed by his new bride Porshia and infant son Maysen, who both moved to New Jersey when he was promoted to Lakewood from extended spring training, Greene feels like things will turn around soon and credits his family being by his side as part of the reason why, citing them as a foundation, not a handicap, as the new addition may have proven to be toward his winter fitness program.
“That’s my family. They come first and they help me focus here, mentally, with their support. I’m really glad they’re here and they just support me with everything I do,” Greene said with a proud smile.
The 2013 MLB amateur draft kicks off on Thursday evening and the Phils will have their earliest slot in recent years, as they pick 16th overall. The Phillies haven’t selected that high since 2001, when they took Gavin Floyd with the 4th overall draft pick.