The pressure that comes with being a top draft pick is something that many players will not confess to feeling, but for one prospect it’s something he openly admits to experiencing and says it’s what will drive him to live up to high expectations.
With a lack of considerable progress in the three years that have passed since Larry Greene Jr. was drafted with the 39th overall pick out of Berrien Country High School in Georgia many have grown impatient with the young outfielder’s progress.
The 21-year-old, who has struggled with his offensive production since turning pro, openly admits to feeling the weight and pressure of being the Phillies’ top pick in 2011.
“I feel like I need to produce and be more of a team leader,” Greene asserted. “Everybody has a specific job and the scoreboard tells us what we can do and us players go day by day. But, I do feel expectations for me, like I need to turn it on and get it moving. I just feel like the rest of this year is going to be big for me and I’m just going to do what I can.”
Another well touted high school pick taken early by the Phillies was Anthony Hewitt, a player that fans have begun drawing comparisons to, when it comes to Greene. Hewitt denied on multiple occasions feeling any urgency to prove the Phillies right for drafting him 24th overall in 2008. That outlook and his results on the field led to the outfielder, who possessed a .223/.264/.370 slash line after six years in the professional ranks, being released by the Phillies in June.
Those that described Hewitt as a bust in recent years were proven correct when the Phils gave up on him. Bust is a word that Greene, who was touted for his big time power upon being drafted and hit his first homer in 51 weeks last weekend, doesn’t want to have applied to him when things are said and done. But, he doesn’t dwell on that possibility either.
“You can’t have any negative thoughts here. If you have negative thoughts, you’re going to be screwed in this game. I just got to be positive. It’s a mental game. I’m talking to (my hitting coach) everyday, making sure my head’s clear. It’s going good for me,” Greene stated.
According to Greene’s manager with Class A Lakewood, Greg Legg, the youngster still has the power potential that scouts once determined was worthy of a million dollar signing bonus. The Phillies’ coaches see what’s missing. It’s something Greene’s been working on this year.
“We’re doing some work on his load, on his leg kick. They added that in extended (spring training) and then he hurt his wrist. It’s a timing thing and we’re giving him a little more time,” Legg shared in his office last week.
The wrist injury Legg mentioned is an ailment that was initially diagnosed as a cartilage tear that required surgery, but rehab and rest did the trick for Greene, who returned to action sooner than anticipated. The injury kept the 21-year-old out of action for two months this season, however.
Greene’s progress isn’t visible in the stats lines yet, but he feels the improvements resulting from the mechanical adjustments he has undertaken are coming along and he mentioned once more an understanding of what everyone’s waiting for from him.
“All the work I put in, when I was down there rehabbing, when I came back up here to continue it, I don’t know, it’s a big change and it needs to happen pretty soon here,” Greene said.
The lefty hitting Greene entered this season with a .236 career average with six home runs and 54 RBI in 181 career games. In 47 games this season he sports a .189 average with a homer and 17 RBI.
The weak stats give him just a bit more incentive.
“I know I’m better than that,” Greene said. “I know I can produce numbers. I just have to be- the confidence has to be there everyday.”
While he works on mechanical tweaks at the plate, the now healthy Greene feels it won’t be long before everything starts to click.