Gregg, drafted on the second day of this year’s draft from the University of South Carolina in the 27th round, quickly made the Northwest League take notice at Class-A Boise beginning in June. A starting outfielder for Coach Ray Tanner’s Gamecocks in the SEC during his sophomore and junior years of college, Gregg quickly left his mark as one of the Cubs’ top rookie performers following the draft. He was hitting the ball well, getting on base, and then swiping bags at a feverish pace early on at Boise.
Gregg’s season cultivated in a .280 average in 300 at-bats, and 36 stolen bases in 48 attempts. Because of Tanner’s system, which is geared more toward power-hitting, Gregg’s speed was somewhat shaded because of how little he was given the green light on the bases while at Carolina. That (and the power philosophy in general) all went out the window at Boise.
“I think a lot of people were surprised by me,” said Gregg, who hit .301 at South Carolina in his junior season of ’05 and stole 30 bases in three college seasons. “I think most people who drafted me knew I could run, but they’d just never seen me do it. High school wasn’t really a great indication of what I could do, and in college I wasn’t able to run as much as I could.”
Gregg added, “When I got to Boise, [Hawks manager] Trey Forkerway was good about giving me the green light. I’d try to pick good counts to run on, then later in the year some guys started to figure me out, so I had to take that into account whenever I chose to run.
“[The Cubs] just want you to get on base. You can’t score unless you’re on base and you can’t win games if you can’t score. Getting hits is good, and the more the better, but if you’re getting your walks, or even reaching on errors, you’re doing your job. Striking out and hitting the ball in the air are the two worst things for a leadoff hitter.”
The concept of getting on base seems so simplistic that it’s hard to believe it inspired an entire book. And asked which statistic -- batting average or on-base percentage -- he considers most critical, Gregg immediately replies, “Oh, on-base percentage. You have to get on base, take your walks and even get hit by pitches. I think that should apply to every hitter, really. I try to get a better eye for the strike zone, which hopefully will make me a better leadoff man ultimately.”
As the Hawks’ leadoff man and starting center fielder, Gregg drew 23 walks and reached base at a .335 mark. His 36 stolen bases were double that of Everett's Casey Craig, who finished second in the league in steals.
“I was pretty pleased with the progress I made,” Gregg said. “I got to play every day, so that was a positive. It was a lot of fun and I stole a lot of bases and was really happy with that, but I think I can do better. I hit a wall about a month before the season ended.”
Gregg was batting over .300 on July 31, but the month of August took its toll on the left-handed hitter and lifelong South Carolina native. He batted only .209 in August and stole just six bases as the result of not getting on base as much as his first month and a half with the Hawks.
When the season was over, Gregg was invited to the Instructional League in Arizona. Because of the Cubs’ policy, the organization’s Instructional League statistics are not released to either the media or general public. Several organizations (such as the Cardinals and Padres), however, do release such statistics, but the Cubs are not one of them.
While in the Instructional League, Gregg got in plenty of work on both offense and defense, but it was the former he wanted to refine the most.
“I’m trying to work on my swing, trying to get it down path,” he said recently. “I was doing well in Boise, but there are always things you can work on. I’m mostly trying to get my hands up higher and hit down on the ball more instead of hitting it in the air. They weren’t so much concerned with me putting the ball in the air as they were with wanting me to hit it on the ground as a leadoff hitter should.”
Now that the Instructional League schedule is over for Gregg, he’ll be able to put baseball out of his mind--at least momentarily. He is scheduled to wed in February, shortly before reporting to Cubs Spring Training in Arizona.
“I’ll be marrying my college sweetheart from South Carolina. We’re going on our honeymoon and then it’s right back to work. First, my sister and I will be taking ours parents on a cruise to the Cayman Islands. It’s sort of a thank you for putting up with us and for putting us through college.”
Gregg is one of a number of Cub prospects getting hitched this off-season. Others include Bobby Brownlie and John Koronka.
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