Image courtesy of Clinton Cole – follow @cdcole55 on Twitter for more great MiLB actionCasey Golden, Colorado’s 20th round pick in the 2017 draft out of UNC-Wilmington, is a name you should know heading into the 2018 season. Casey led the Pioneer League in home runs last season en route to earning Pioneer League post-season all-star honors. Casey’s best tool is his power, but you can tell from our interview that his character and mental approach are tools that he can rely on to continue to improve his all-around game.
Casey was nice enough to sit down with Baseball Farm and talk about his plate approach, his friendly rivalry with fellow Rockies’ farmhand Chad Spanberger, the differences between college ball and rookie ball, a new stretching craze called RomWod, and the best BBQ in Wilmington:
Phil Goyette: I told you we had a stat about you. How we really found out about you, and I mean, no offense, but no one had really heard about you prior to the draft this year. You weren’t on our radar. But then we pulled this stat: last year, in all of minor league baseball, there were just 7 guys who had a home run to at bat ratio greater than 8%. You were one of the 7.
Casey Golden: Oh, wow.
CG: Oh yeah, yeah he did.
CG: Oh yeah.
PG: Jabari Blash, who just got taken in the Rule 5. And then you. And that’s it!
CG: *laughs* Those are some good guys there.
PG: And for a time your HR/AB rate was the highest out of anybody.
CG: I’ve never even really followed that stuff, to be honest with you. I’m not a big stat guy. But that’s kind of crazy to think about.
PG: Not on your radar at all?
CG: I definitely could see Chad [Spanberger] being on it.
PG: Your HR/AB rate is higher than Chad’s.
CG: Oh really? I’ll be sure to tell him that. *laughs*
PG: *laughs* One of the guys on the site told me to ask you, who do you think has more power, you or Chad?
CG: Oh man. I don’t know, I guess it depends where the wind is blowing that day. *laughs* He’s definitely…I mean he’s a big guy…I’d say him.
PG: Ok. That’s fair.
CG: He can definitely put on a show when he wants to. Chad definitely has some ‘easy juice’. It was kind of funny, I don’t know if they put us in the same BP group on purpose, but some days they’d just tell us to go out there and, you know, hit them hard.
PG: Do you kind of have a friendly rivalry with him about it?
CG: Yeah, it kind of came out of nowhere, we weren’t really keeping up with how many home runs we were hitting. It just, kind of, started happening, and next thing you know we kept bombing, and then I’d be 2 ahead, then he’d come back and hit 2 in 1 game and it just kept growing. And people would be like ‘are ya’ll actually making this a competition?’ and I was like ‘well we’re not trying to’, because when you start trying to hit home runs is when you don’t really succeed. So it was kind of more of a rivalry that was just…definitely more of a friendly rivalry. More just a kind of competition that made it very interesting, and it was fun to be a part of.
PG: Do you have any aspects of your game that you feel like you need to focus on in order to make it to the majors?
CG: Definitely. I think I need to work on defense. Being more consistent on defense. And definitely being aggressive in all parts of the game. Baserunning. Trying to be more of a complete player, and I’d love to hit for more average and have more quality at-bats, and that’s what I think I really want to work on. And that’s what I’ve worked on this offseason, just trying to control my hot and cold zones and know what they are, and have quality at-bats.
PG: Is that something you are thinking of when you’re at the plate, during the game? Or is that something that you’re working on during your training so it is kind of like second nature when you are in a game situation?
CG: That’s how I’m trying to train now. When I’m taking BP on the field, I can recognize which pitches I can handle better and which ones I need to work on more. It is something that they talked to me about during instructs. They didn’t share any information with us during the season. Which, I guess, is a good thing, because you’d probably start thinking about it a lot. [During instructs] they were just like ‘hey, we have these stats here we want you to look at. This is is your strengths and weaknesses at the plate, stuff that we want you to work on.’ I think that is what I am really trying to work on this offseason.
PG: Is it like the MLB At-Bat hot and cold zones you might see?
CG: Yeah, its just like pitches that you handle well, pitches that you need to work on, and kind of like your batting average per zone, stuff like that. The Rockies organization lets us know. And I think it really helps, because I’d never thought about it before, and I was like ‘wow, if I can work on this pitch but also get better at another pitch, it is just going to help me widen my zone that I can handle.’
PG: Is that something new from college to rookie ball?
CG: Yeah, we [UNC Wilmington] were a mid-major school, so we weren’t very highly funded. So we didn’t have all the fancy tracking and video. We took our video off an iPad that a video guy would take for our at-bats from the dugout. So we could break down some stuff. But we didn’t have exit velo…launch angle…all the stuff that some people believe in, some people don’t. But I think having even that little bit of information can help you.
PG: So did you tweak some stuff based on what they showed you?
CG: Yeah, it was more pitch recognition, more of seeing the pitch rather than changing my swing. I think, you’ve got to see the ball to hit the ball. So I’m trying to recognize and see more pitches.
PG: When you’re actually at the plate, talking about the game, plate confrontation with the pitcher, do you have anything specifically that you say you’re going to focus on? Like staying quiet in the zone, or hand placement, or how you’re going to shift your weight. Or, is all that stuff in the back of your mind, and you’re just up there looking for the pitch, and then trying to hit?
CG: I try to be really basic. I wasn’t a big ‘leg kick’ guy, trying to be super fundamental when I was hitting. I try to make my repetitions become second nature, so that when I get in the game it is just ‘see ball…hit ball.’ I think I’ve always had a kind of angle on my swing, so that I kind of hit the ball in the air. I just tried to make that second nature, and once I got in the game it just kind of happens.
PG: You kind of have a natural uppercut swing already as your swing?
CG: Yes sir.
PG: Because there are people out there who are trying to get that uppercut swing.
CG: I wouldn’t say I’m trying to get an uppercut. It is more just that I have a natural lift. I kind of see it as a good thing. Because it works. It is not necessarily that I’m up there trying to hit fly balls. I’m trying to hit line drives and some balls that I just miss tend to have a little backspin on it and a little ‘giddy up’.
PG: Are there any other differences that stick out to you between college and rookie ball last year?
CG: I think the biggest difference for me was playing every day. Just trying to really take care of your body and knowing that you have a schedule that you need to keep. A routine to get you ready to play everyday. And once I found my routine, you feel a little more confident going through your days, you don’t feel as rushed, you feel a little more prepared, from a physical standpoint.
In college, you had everything scheduled. You’ve got classes, you’ve got a workout at a specific time, everything is kind of scheduled for you. In rookie ball, you can sleep in, you’ve just got to be at the field at a certain time, and I knew I needed to get up, eat breakfast, get moving around.
PG: Who is the toughest pitcher you faced last year. Either in college or in the Pioneer League.
CG: There was a lefty in college, his name was Nick Raquet, he was from William & Mary, in our conference. He was pretty tough. He was a 4 pitch mix guy, and he had some tough stuff. He mixed it up, and I think he threw 97 or something. But I think we hit him actually…
This summer I saw a lot of good arms. There are some talented guys.
PG: In the Pioneer League you have guys coming from all over. Your draft class, last year’s draft class, international guys playing for the first time in the United States. So probably a different feel…
CG: There’s a broad range of guys. We had some 3 year college guys, we had 1 high school signee on our team. He was my roommate. Ryan Vilade. So we got to pick each other’s brain a little bit. I don’t know if they put the old guy with the young guy on purpose, but I was blessed to have him as a roommate. He was a good guy.
PG: Anybody else in the Rockies organization stand out to you from last year? Either a coach or a mentor, anybody that kind of helped you along?
CG: Yeah, Lee Stevens, the hitting coach (for the Grand Junction Rockies) he helped me a lot. More of a mental approach, trying to calm everything down. Don’t make the moments too big. Just focus on having fun. That’s when you realize, it’s just the game of baseball. You get to go out there and just play.
PG: Have you been playing your whole life?
CG: Oh yeah, I’ve been on a baseball field since I was little. My dad was coaching when I was born. As soon as I could crawl I was out there.
PG: As a power bat, are you excited about playing at Coors Field in the future?
CG: Definitely. They say the ball travels there, so I think Coors Field would be a cool park to play at. We went to a game, they say the ball flies. I don’t mind, if the air helps then, hey, that would be great!
PG: What level do you think you will start at in 2018?
CG: I’m not really sure. I’m getting ready for full season hopefully. If it is High-A or Low-A, I’m going in with the same approach.
PG: Do you have any kind of say in where they put you?
CG: No, I don’t believe so. I mean, wherever they tell me to go is where I’m going. They told me to get your body ready for your first full season, so that’s kind of the approach I’ve taken.
PG: Do you have a chip on your shoulder from being drafted in the 20th round?
CG: Yeah, I think I had a chip on my shoulder at first. Right when it happened.
PG: Were you surprised that you slipped down that far?
CG: It was, you know, typical draft stuff. You’re told you’re going a little higher and then you wind up getting pushed back a little bit. I had no hard feelings about it. I was extremely happy when Jordan Czarniecki, our area scout, called me. It was more of feeling happy that I got it out of the way, get your name called, and start the next chapter.
PG: How did you feel when you found out that it was Rockies that drafted you?
CG: It was awesome. I knew 3 guys in the organization already from UNC-Wilmington. So, I was happy I get to hang out with them at spring training, find out who the farm teams are, get to know the coaches. And I think that helped a lot, I was texting them prior to leaving for Grand Junction, definitely getting some pointers. I kind of knew what to expect going in to last season a little more.
PG: What’s your plan now? Are you going to go to Arizona?
CG: Yeah I’m in Wilmington now working out. I was in instructional league in Arizona in October. And I’ll head to spring training probably in late February. I’ll get ready for that pretty soon. It’s definitely snuck up on me.
PG: Are you excited about spring training?
CG: I’m definitely excited. It’s about 30 degrees here right now.
PG: What would you say your #1 area of focus has been for this offseason?
CG: I think just trying to be physically healthy so I can play a full season. Be in shape. And that goes with my swing, trying to get it so it’s in shape, consistently, so that it feels the same every day and not fatigued. I think that will help me have a better season.
PG: What kind of steps did you take to address that?
CG: One of the big things with the Rockies is they wanted me to work on my mobility. Not as much flexibility as trying to stay quick-twitch. So I got with the new strength coach at UNC-Wilmington, and he’s helped me out, he’s put together a good program for me. He introduced me to this stretching program called RomWod.
CG: Yeah, the name is weird. But it’s helped me out a lot. It is all online, so I watch the videos and stretch in my living room. And it is the perfect amount of stretching, 15-20 minutes a day with different muscle groups. It has helped me stay mobile and gain some flexibility, along with helping me gain some strength.
PG: How about you rate your own 5 tools on the 20-80 scale.
CG: Oh man.
PG: How about your hit tool, what would you give yourself?
CG: This is hard, I’ve never thought about this. This is like, not my thing, I don’t like rating myself…well if you look at my stats, my contact isn’t very high. *laughs* Maybe a 40.
PG: We saw your strikeout rate. *laughs*
CG: Yeah let’s leave my strikeout rate out of it.
PG: I will, because I want you to like me…I won’t mention it anymore. How about your power tool?
CG: I’d like to say 60, it that seems doable.
PG: Looks like it based on last year, for sure…How about your speed?
CG: 40. I’ve seen some guys that run like 6.3s (in the 60-yard run) and they’ve got them like 50 speed guys. I don’t know, I think the scale is weird. I must say, I’m a lot slower than a 6.3 so let’s say 40.
PG: How about your glove, as far as a tool.
PG: How about your arm?
CG: 50. 40? *laughs*
PG: Do you see yourself as a corner outfielder as you keep going forward?
CG: Yeah. I can play all 3 positions, I’ve played all 3. I started off my career in college in center, so I’m pretty comfortable out there.
PG: Do you look any of the defensive metrics? Do they show you guys any of that stuff?
CG: No they didn’t. They just kind of told us our strengths and we need to work on. I definitely took those into account and tried to work on them.
PG: What’s the longest home run you’ve ever hit?
CG: I don’t know. I hit one this summer that was 470 or so…I know it wound up in the bleachers in some video I saw.
PG: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Now it is kind of hard to have a favorite player in today’s game. Now there’s just so many really fun players to watch. You can about have a favorite player on every team.
PG: I agree. A lot of good young players too.
CG: So many. I love Adam Jones, I love the way he plays.
PG: How about any White Sox guys that you like to watch? Guys your age like Moncada or Nicky Delmonico?
CG: I played against Carlos Rodon, and he actually DH’d against us in college. I don’t know if you knew that, that he used to DH.
PG: I didn’t know that.
CG: He was good too!
PG: What do you think about his stuff?
CG: I saw him in high school, his stuff was electric. Downhill, from an angle, big kid, wipeout slider, and he’s just a mule, he’s big. The White Sox have a lot of young talent in that organization.
PG: Rockies too. Rockies have a lot of talent in the outfield in the minors.
CG: One of my buddies had 70 stolen bases.
PG: Wes Rogers right?
CG: Yeah, he was committed to UNC Wilmington but went in the draft. He’s from South Carolina, went to Spartanburg Methodist Junior College. He was committed to come to Wilmington and then he got drafted. We stay in touch a lot.
PG: If you wind up in (Class A-Advanced) Lancaster, are you excited about that possibility?
CG: Yeah, I think that would be awesome.
PG: Chip from our site wants to know what’s the best BBQ place in Wilmington?
CG: Moe’s BBQ, that’s really good. Then there’s Casey’s Buffet. Not mine though, unfortunately…
PG: Do you prefer vinegar or tomato based BBQ?
CG: Oh no no no…vinegar based. I’ll tell you one thing though, Smithfield’s is really good. It’s a chain, but they’ve got some good BBQ.
PG: We are the Baseball Farm, so we’ve got to stick with the theme. Do you have a favorite fruit?
CG: Probably oranges, all kinds, mandarin, regular…
PG: How about a favorite vegetable?
CG: Broccoli. But I add cheese to eat it.
PG: Do you play any fantasy baseball?
CG: I don’t.
PG: Do you play any video games at all? Do you play the Show or anything?
CG: Yeah, I play the Show, 2K with my little brother. I’m a big Call of Duty guy.
PG: Do you get the headset on?
CG: Oh yeah. I travel with my headset. I play Grand Theft Auto. You name it. Madden. I finally caved and just downloaded that new game Fortnite. That’s really addicting.
PG: Awesome man, thank you for your time, I appreciate it!
CG: Oh, no problem at all.