Gose's Gamble Requires Long-Term View
After his first full season as a pro, Anthony Gose looked like a smart gamble.
Benny Looper, the Phillies' assistant general manager of player personnel, said his organization is drawn to high-risk, high-reward draft picks. And using a 2008 second-round selection on Gose, a raw pitching and outfield prospect from Bellflower (Calif.) High, paid off last year.
Dedicated strictly to center field for the first time in his career, Gose led the South Atlantic League with 76 steals at low Class A Lakewood. He was also voted the league's best baserunner, best defensive outfielder and most exciting player by SAL managers.
"Last year, everything just fell in my hands," Gose said. "Everything just went the way I wanted it to go and I came into this season expecting the same. But this year has really served as a reality check."
Gose is running as often this season as he did in 2009, but the outfielder's success rate has plummeted at high Class A Clearwater in the Florida State League. As of mid-July, he was succeeding on just 55 percent of steal attempts (33-for-59).
Gose said he never took a mental approach when stealing before this year. If he reached first, he was going to take second soon, regardless of the pitch count or who was on the mound. But the FSL has experienced pitchers and catchers, and Gose is getting caught more than ever.
Steve Henderson, the Phillies' baserunning and outfield coordinator, said Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton faced similar problems when Henderson worked for the Rays. Athletic players often succeed solely because of their tools at low levels but eventually need to learn the finer points of the game, Henderson said.
Gose said pitchers and catchers expect him to run, and he needs to be more selective before taking off. Henderson is teaching Gose to study the opposing pitcher from the dugout to read when he is going to start his windup.
Henderson has also focused on improving Gose's leads from first and taking off quicker. He added that, perhaps more than anything else, experience will be a key for Gose, who has played the season as a teenager at 19.
While Henderson doesn't think Gose will be quite as prolific swiping bases as Crawford and Upton, he said the prospect could get close.
"You can see that flair," Henderson said. "He wants it. I've been around a lot of young kids and some of them aren't willing to work to get better. There are a lot that do, too, and he is one of them."
In addition to Henderson, Gose said he is receiving advice from everyone who consistently watches him play, even his agent. But while he stays polite, Gose said he listens to some people more than others.
When Jimmy Rollins came to Clearwater for rehab stints in May and June, the 11-year veteran talked to Gose about staying calm while handling adversity.
"It's good to hear from someone at the big league level who overcame their struggles and maintained success in the majors," Gose said. "You see a guy like him and you don't think he ever had problems in the minors. But he did."
And while Gose is looking to improve on the basepaths, he continues to succeed in the outfield. The lefty was coveted by some scouts as a pitcher because he could touch 97 mph in high school. But Tim Kissner, the Phillies area scout who signed Gose, saw him as an athlete who happened to throw hard rather than a pitcher.
When he was a junior in 2007, Gose broke on a deep fly ball and caught it while diving with his back to the infield. Kissner, who was scouting one of Gose's teammates, knew he was watching a future big league outfielder.
And his strong arm, coupled with speed and good instincts, pushed Gose's ceiling even higher. His 13 outfield assists in 2009 ranked third in the SAL. Through 96 games this season, Gose had recorded 15 more outfield assists.
Kissner believes Gose's defense will remain steady as he struggles on the basepaths. He has the proper approach to separate the different aspects of the game, Kissner said.
"He's got this aura around him. He has so much confidence and he really believes he's going to make it," Kissner said. "He goes through struggles and doesn't let that affect him."
Work In Progress At Bat
When Gose was drafted, he was viewed as a raw hitter, and two seasons in the minor leagues have done little to dispel those beliefs. He was hitting .261/.322/.368 in 238 career games as a pro and had 216 strikeouts in 938 at-bats. While he hasn't completely tapped into his power potential, he has improved from a .353 slugging percentage in 2009 to .388 this season, more impressive considering the big league dimensions of most FSL ballparks.
Since joining the Phillies, Gose said he has been overcompensating for their instructions. The coaches harped on hitting the ball the other way, and he started trying to push every pitch to left field, including those on the inner half that he should pull.
Looper said he wants Gose to take advantage of his speed, hitting more grounders and bunting more often. But Looper understands Gose's development is a work in progress.
Looper has already seen him flash big league potential, and if Gose can become more consistent, the Phillies will feel like lottery winners.
"We drafted him as a strong-tool high school kid," Looper said. "He was a risky pick, but he's the kind of kid who can do something special and it's a lot of fun to see players like him develop."