Highly touted minor leaguer not returning to Phillies
Outfielder Larry Greene informed the team he is not reporting to camp.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - A foghorn blared from the building in the center of the Carpenter Complex around 12:30 yesterday afternoon.
Like military recruits running for the chow hall, more than 100 minor leaguers dashed off the diamonds. Minor league camp opened this weekend, and a who's who of the Phillies' top prospects and former draft picks were at work in Clearwater.
All except the team's top pick from the 2011 draft, a player the Phillies awarded with a $1 million signing bonus 3 1/2 years ago.
Outfielder Larry Greene, 22, informed the organization that he wouldn't be reporting to camp this spring. He is no longer interested in a professional baseball career.
When approached yesterday morning, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. referred all queries on Greene to player development director Joe Jordan.
"He let me know about 3-4 days ago that he wasn't coming back, that he had other things he wanted to do," Jordan said. "So he's not going to be here."
What "other things?"
"I didn't ask," Jordan said.
Attempts to reach Greene were unsuccessful. The former first-round pick (39th overall) never played above Low-A Lakewood.
When the Phillies drafted the big-bodied Green (listed at 6-foot, 235 pounds on baseball-reference.com), they compared him to former top hitting prospect Jonathan Singleton. They saw a raw kid with power and envisioned him as a lefthanded-hitting, middle-of-the-order bat in the big leagues.
Instead, Greene never made it out of the Sally League and apparently has given up on his career.
"I wouldn't say [retired] because I don't think anything is official in that regard," Jordan said. "He just informed me that he wasn't coming. It's all just new enough that we're trying to figure it out exactly. Listen, we've got spring training going. I've got 140-something guys to focus on. They're here. They want to be here. So we're trying to figure out exactly how all of it needs to be handled. Make sure you do it the right way. But he's informed me he's not coming."
Is it possible Green could change his mind?
"Yeah, that's why I wouldn't go on record with the retirement thing," Jordan said, responding to initial reports that said Green had retired. "Listen, I think a lot of Larry. He's been with us. I've gotten to know him. If there's anything I can do, I will. This is hard . . . if you're not 100 percent in. We'll try to help him if we can and see if he still wants to play. But right now I don't plan on him being here."
Drafted in the same first round as rising big-league stars as Jose Fernandez, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and George Springer, and top prospects like Blake Swihart and Francisco Lindor (all selected before him, to be fair), Greene has probably eclipsed Anthony Hewitt as the poster child for failed Phillies top picks in the last dozen drafts.
The power the Phillies scouts saw in the teenager at Berrien County High (Nashville, Ga.) never translated against professional pitching: Greene hit eight home runs in 858 minor league at-bats.
Last season, Greene hit .183 with 12 extra-base hits (two home runs) in 60 games at Low-A Lakewood. In parts of four minor league seasons, Greene hit .224 with a .638 OPS in 242 games; he struck out 304 times in 989 plate appearances.
Unless Greene were to blossom in the next couple of seasons, he could very well have been on the same path of Hewitt. Hewitt, the team's top pick in 2008 (24th overall) who was also a raw high school athlete drafted for power, was released last summer after hitting .223 with 24 home runs and a .634 OPS in seven minor league seasons. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles 2 months ago.
But Green didn't even spend half as long in the Phillies system as Hewitt did. The organization wasn't ready to give up on him entering 2015.
"Like everyone, you hope this is the year where some things come together, and you start seeing some success and he starts having some fun," Jordan said.
Instead Greene will be moving on from baseball, apparently.
"I'm disappointed when it doesn't work out for any of them, really," Jordan said while watching minor league pitchers throw yesterday morning. "It's disappointing. [But] he's a grown man, he made this decision. Yeah, I'm disappointed for him, for sure . . . I mean this is too hard of a deal to pull off. They all have to be invested in what they're doing. It's just - he decided this isn't what he wanted to do."