Playing for the short-season Low-A Boise Hawks last year in the Northwest League, Gregg swiped a league-leading 36 stolen bases in only 74 games while the second-place finisher (Everett’s Casey Craig) managed only 18.
Yes, everyone knows that Davy Gregg is fast, but what they may not know is that the kid is decidedly confident and seemingly unshakeable. Take for instance his stint with the Cubs in spring training this year.
“In the big league spring training, they send a few minor league guys up,” Gregg said. “The major leaguers don’t want to play every inning of every game, so I went up and played a game with Dusty Baker managing. I played the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth in one game, but got one at bat and grounded out.”
He mentions this anticlimactic event nonchalantly, perhaps because he would get a second chance and make the most of it. In his first trip to the plate, Gregg showed off his familiar speed.
“A week later, I went back up for another game and was 2 for 2,” Gregg said. “My first at bat, we were playing the Mariners, and I hit a ground ball to Richie Sexson at first and he backhanded it. I beat the pitcher to first. Sexson couldn’t have got there.”
Gregg came up again in the ninth inning and singled once more. “I hit a line drive to Ichiro in right field and then tried to steal second and got thrown out on the next pitch.”
He wasn’t the least bit bothered since his philosophy is that it is better to be aggressive and fail than to be timid and overpowered.
Gregg was drafted out of the University of South Carolina in the 27th round of last year’s draft. However, his quickness was not on full display in college. In 146 games at South Carolina, Gregg stole a total of only 30 bases in three years.
It wasn’t the opposition that held him in check. It was his coach, Ray Tanner.
The Gamecocks employed an American League-type power hitting offense and Gregg was rarely given the freedom to take off.
When he arrived in Boise, though, a coaching staff led by manager Trey Forkerway gave Gregg the green light. His stolen base totals skyrocketed.
In addition to leading the league in steals, he finished tied for second in runs (53) and was fourth in hits (84) while batting .280 with an on-base percentage of .335.
Both Gregg and Peoria manager Jody Davis know the outfielder’s limitations.
“I’m not a big power hitter, so I slap the ball around,” Gregg said.
Added the former Cubs catcher and first-year Peoria skipper, “He’s rock-solid. He plays his game. He probably isn’t going to hit many home runs, but he’s a singles-doubles guy that is going to steal a lot of bases. He sets the table and sets the mood that turns our offense on.”
And unlike Tanner’s offense, Davis’ is built more around speed and defense -- two traits that Gregg happens to showcase exceptionally well.
“His defense is great,” Davis said. “It's good to have that kind of speed and instinct out there, because that's basically the type of team we're going to be about: pitching and defense. He’s a good defensive center fielder and he brings the speed to the top of our lineup.”
Gregg tries to keep his swing compact and down on the ball like another center fielder in the Cubs organization: Juan Pierre.
When asked if he thinks he’s as fast as Pierre, Gregg flashes that recognizable assurance once again.
“It’d be a good race,” he said. “Probably be real close. I might have the upper hand on him.”
Gregg is now making the transition to the Midwest League with Peoria. He already has a seven-game hitting streak this year and through his first eight games was batting .281.
In four attempts, he has three stolen bases and has noticed the opposition paying much closer attention to him on the base paths.
“They pitch out on me,” he now says with subtle pride.
Gregg, who turns 23 in May, married his college sweetheart in February. The two share an apartment together in Peoria and during the off-season winters, Gregg and the Mrs. reside in their home back in South Carolina, where he spends his time outdoors hunting and fishing -- two Carolina traditions as old as the sun itself.
Later on in the season, does he think he’ll be promoted?
“There’s a good chance,” he says with his typical humble confidence. “There is a good chance.”