This past November, Toronto Blue Jays prospect Anthony Gose looked me in the eye and told me he would become "the best outfielder in baseball." He said all he needed was a chance. That was during his days playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the 2011 Arizona Fall League.
Because of his speed and "electricity" at the top of the batting order, many feel Anthony Gose will ultimately become the long-term starting center fielder for the Blue Jays. But he may have to wait for his opportunity.
Gose will have competition, with the presence of players like Colby Rasmus, Rajai Davis, Ben Francisco and fellow prospect Moises Sierra all on the potential center field depth chart. Rasmus, Davis and Francisco each have limited contract term commitments, and Sierra, probably better suited as a right fielder, is in a similar position as Gose. While each has Major League talent, none project better long term than Gose. However, should Rasmus find his power, he may delay the arrival of Gose unless he shifts to a corner outfield position.
Gose was a second-round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. In 2010, he was traded to the Blue Jays from Houston for Brett Wallace. The Astros had obtained Wallace from Philadelphia in their deal for Roy Oswalt.
The central components of Goses' game to date have been his speed, his ability to play very solid defense and his outstanding arm strength. In fact, as a former high school pitcher in California, Gose could regularly hit 95 mph. As he turned professional, Gose indicated he did not wish to continue as a pitcher, so he became a speedy outfielder with a cannon for an arm. More about that later.
As has been the case with speedy outfielders hoping to steal bases in bunches, getting on base will be the greatest challenge. Players like Joey Gathright and Luis Durango were born to steal, but they had difficulty getting on base enough to ply their craft. That will be the task facing Gose.
Gose's on-base percentage so far this season is .372, another improvement over 2011 and his .349 mark. The sample sizes are limited, but improvement is being realized at the most advanced Minor League level.
Some other scouts I have consulted view Goise as having raw power that could develop later in his career. Still only 21, Gose has room for physical development on his 6-foot-1 inch, 190-pound frame. I don't see home run power. I do, however, think because of his speed he will be able to hit the right-center field gap and stretch sure doubles into triples. His gap hits will get him into scoring position for louder bats hitting behind him.
Other than a tendency toward being impatient at the plate, I have seen Gose get himself out with an inconsistent, lunging type swing at the pitcher's pitch. Instead of using a more measured, shorter swing and putting the bat on the ball, it appears as though Gose wants to drive the ball either out of the park or to the gap. With Gose's speed, aiming for the center of the field and hitting the ball on the line would make more sense. Contact will pay dividends.
Defensively, Gose has shown an ability to get to balls from a rather shallow position. When I saw him, he got a good read off the bat in the difficult high sky of Arizona. He showed the ability to chase down balls to the gap with direct and well-timed routes. He released the ball from his glove well and got off strong throws with very good carry. His quick first step sets the tone for his ability to cover a great deal of ground in a very short amount of time. He is a "take charge" type outfielder, the type of player required as a center fielder. Parks with spacious outfields will not be a concern for Gose.
A number of speedy center fielders are emerging in baseball. Peter Bourjos, Jarrod Dyson, and Ben Revere are among the potential basestealer types who share the same general baseball talent profile as Gose. Each seems to struggle for playing time. They are part of very difficult decision-making equations for their managers. Once on base, they can make things happen. Getting on base is difficult. They can't steal bases and score runs from the bench. They may change a game with their speed on offense or defense, but they won't hit that three-run homer that keeps power hitters in the lineup game after game.
Gose is a raw talent with speed, good baseball instincts, good bat speed, a big upside and a flair for the dramatic. This past Spring Training, for example, he stole second, third and home, all in succession.
He will have to continue to improve before he can become "the best outfielder in baseball" as he suggested when we spoke last fall. I liked his confidence at the time. I liked his self-assured swagger. But he'll have to put up some numbers -- especially getting on base, stealing bases and scoring runs -- before he can realize his dream. I wouldn't put it past him.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.