One of the biggest stories for the Dragons in 2018, and one of the biggest stories in our team’s history, is going to be the arrival of highly touted pitcher Hunter Greene, an 18-year-old phenom from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. Greene attended the same high school as MLB slugger Giancarlo Stanton, former star pitcher Jack McDowell, former Dragon Chris Dickerson, and many famous non-athletes including Leave it to Beaver’s Jerry Mathers and actress Kirsten Dunst. His hometown of Sherman Oaks (not a huge city with a population of 52,677) has also been the home to a long A-list of movie and television stars including Jennifer Aniston, Tom Selleck, the Olsen twins, Shia LaBeouf, Melissa Joan Hart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and singers Paula Abdul and Demi Lovato.

Greene’s baseball skills put him on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he graduated from high school. His fastball has been clocked at 102 mph. Greene won the 2016 Home Run Derby at the Perfect Game All-America Classic, as a hitter, then was the starting pitcher for the winning team and threw the fastest pitch in the game in an all-star event featuring the top high school players in the country.

HG

Photo: Casey Page/Billings Gazette

Greene was the second overall pick in the draft in 2017 and will easily be the top pitching prospect in the Midwest League when he arrives in Dayton this season. He has been called a “generational talent” by Reds General Manager Dick Williams. Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin proclaimed that Greene “may be the most intriguing, most important baseball prospect to arrive in years, if not ever.” The Dragons have had some players arrive in Dayton with high expectations over the course of their history, including Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, and Nick Senzel. But there has never been anything like this.

Hunter Greene is listed by Baseball America, and most every other baseball publication that ranks prospects, as the #2 prospect in the Reds system. He is behind former Dragons third baseman Nick Senzel, who is expected to make his MLB debut with the Reds sometime this season. MLB.com ranks Greene as the 21st best prospect in all of baseball. ESPN has him at #22, and Baseball America lists him at #29.

You may ask: Why isn’t he higher?

Well, Hunter Green will not turn 19 years old until August. Every player ranked ahead of him on the Baseball America list is older and more experienced. In fact, Greene is younger than any player listed in the top 75 on Baseball America’s list. The publications generally place players in the highest slots who are closer to being big league-ready.

Hunter Greene has a grand total of four innings of professional pitching experience. The fact that Greene, with virtually no track record in the Minor Leagues, is rated in the top 30 among all prospects in baseball by the three major publications is striking. If things unfold as expected, Greene will actually become the youngest American pitcher ever to appear in a game for the Dragons when he takes the mound in Dayton this summer at age 18. The last American pitcher for the Dragons to appear in a game at age 18 was Chris Gruler, the Reds first round draft pick in 2002, who appeared for the Dragons later that same summer, less than two months short of his 19th birthday. The average age of a Dragons pitcher over the last five years has been 21.7.

Greene’s arrival date in Dayton is still a question mark. The issue revolves around the assumed desire by the Reds to limit his innings in his first full professional season to reduce the risk of injury, now or in the future. The four starting pitchers who spent the entire 2017 season with the Dragons, Scott Moss, Tony Santillan, Andrew Jordan, and Wennington Romero, finished with between 128 and 136 innings for the year. Each skipped one start during the regular season to limit their innings, but each also compiled playoff starts. Typically, it could be expected that a Dragons starting pitcher who is with the team all season would log about 140 innings.

The Reds have not expressed a desired innings total for Hunter Greene in 2018, and it is unlikely that they will share that information publicly once they come to a determination. But it is almost certain that they will want to keep Greene’s innings for the year well below 140. Some observers have projected the number to be more like 110.

There are three simple ways that the Reds could limit Hunter Greene to 110 innings. One would be to decrease his pitch limit from the standard 90 for most starters to 70, meaning he would typically pitch about four innings per start with a maximum of five. A second way would be to cut his pitch limit to 50, but only for the first half of the season. Greene would work three innings per start for the first half of the season. The third method would be to hold Greene out of action for the first month of the 2018 season, and then allow him to pitch on a standard 90-pitch limit once he arrives.

If the Reds elect to employ either of the first two options, they would likely carry a reliever on the roster who is designated to “piggyback” with Greene each time through the rotation. This pitcher would be prepared in spring training to be a starter, who could provide five innings of work after Greene completed his outing each turn. If Greene does not arrive until early May, there would be no need, obviously, for that extra tandem reliever to be available. It remains to be seen how the Reds decide to coordinate Greene’s workload, but the fact remains, Greene will pitch in Dayton, it is simply a matter of when.

While Hunter Greene was a great two-way player in high school as a pitcher/shortstop, he is expected to be utilized exclusively as a pitcher in the Reds organization, at least in the foreseeable future. The demands are simply too great on any player to attempt to play a position and pitch at the professional level, when games are played seven days a week. In fact, it is not really the games themselves that make this proposition prohibitive, but the practice required.

Consider the day in the life of a minor league player. For a 7:00 p.m. game, some hitters jump in the batting cage as early as noon, putting in extra work before practice officially begins. Coaches will often schedule defensive early work on the field before regular practice begins, giving players a chance to spend time with their defensive position coach or one of the Reds roving instructors or special assistants like Barry Larkin or Eric Davis.

Middle infielders may work on getting a little quicker on the double play, or a first baseman might practice digging low throws out of the dirt. Outfielders may work on hitting the relay man or fielding balls hit into the corners. This may go on for up to 90 minutes before regular practice starts around 3:00. Then the entire team takes infield practice together, then batting practice on the field, when all elements of hitting are included, such as bunting, hit-and-run, hitting the ball to the right side to advance a runner, or getting a ball into the air to score a runner from third with less than two outs.

Meanwhile starting pitchers have their own pre-game routines. Their practice time includes conditioning to keep their legs strong between starts and one extended bullpen session every fifth day in which all pitches are thrown and extra work is given to areas of need. There is also time spent going over the opposing hitters with the catcher to determine a game plan of attack.

All of this takes place before the games even start. For one player to do everything the hitters do, AND everything the pitchers do, every day, all season, at a level that is competitive with the other players, would seem almost impossible.

It is not the in-game activities that would prevent an athlete from being a two-way player, it is the preparation, the time it takes to get ready for the games, with the understanding that since fewer than 10 percent of all players signed to a contract eventually reach the Major Leagues, every day of practice counts. A two-way player would have to go through the full day that every hitter endures, time in the batting cage, on the field working on defense, and all the drills, and then match all the preparation of the pitchers. And do it for 140 games in 152 days.

32 Responses

  1. Bill

    Hope things go better for Greene than Gruler. Read an article that everyone said Gruler was the next Clements or Schilling but he never made it.

  2. cfd3000

    My sole and simple hope for Hunter Greene and the Reds is that he stays healthy. If he does, it will be fun to watch his progress.

  3. Kettering Reds Fan

    The interesting question is:

    (a) how much observation is needed to determine what he needs to develop, and in what sequence, through development. and

    (b) what utilization philosophy to employ to achieve that development.

    There could be that long transitional phase where his formal numbers disappoint simply because he’s being focused on developing a specific skill. And people here need to be aware of that likelihood.

    This, of course, presumes that the Reds new regime is taking the appropriate measures through the minor league organization to improve focus on developmental techniques.

    • Tom Nichols

      a) he was in Billings and then instructional league, so they know by now what he needs to work on. Those things will likely be: consistently repeating his delivery (this is already considered a strength for Greene, but he is still young and inexperienced); improving command, especially on secondary pitches (goes back to consistency); start to learn the mental part of pitching just through experience–unlikely they get too deep here at first.

      b) it is pretty much the same for every starting pitcher in the lower minors. One side-session between starts, time in the pitching coach’s office to talk about what went well in the last start, what didn’t; and game experience.

      Yes, there will be peaks and valleys due to inconsistent command. You will likely see nights when he looks like an all-star, and nights when he gets hit hard due to lack of being able to throw secondary pitches for strikes on that day. Midwest League hitters can hit a fastball if they know that is the only pitch you can throw for strikes. The best prospect is not always the best player in the lower minors, especially when he is much younger than the rest of the league. But you will very likely see plenty of moments when you just smile and say, “the hitter had no chance there.” Keep in mind, in the games in the minor leagues, you pitch to win the game so that you develop confidence. They will encourage him to use his secondary pitches in the right situations, but they will want him to have success, not just go out there and work on stuff. He has the arm strength and athletic ability, it is just a matter of gaining experience.

    • Jeff Reed

      Dayton, the birthplace of aviation, and the city with the most U.S. patents prior to the digital era.

  4. Kap

    Good article Tom.

    When do you think he will get to Dayton this year, if your had to guess? I try to make it to a Dragons games once or twice a year and would like to try and see him in action

    Also, I can see him get a pinch-hit AB every so often and maybe even a DH opportunity here and there. If he can also hit, the Reds organization might as well exploit that as well.

    • Tom Nichols

      Thanks. To answer your question, he could be in Dayton on Opening Day or he could arrive around the first week of May, depending on the final decision on how best to limit his innings. One thing I have learned in Minor League Baseball is how one consequence always impacts another. These guys are all human beings, chasing a dream. So there is one Reds pitching prospect (and his family) hoping Greene stays in Arizona for the first month, which would open one spot in the Dayton rotation, and that kid is thinking every day this winter that if there is an opening, he is going to earn it. That kid might be Jacob Heatherly, the Reds third round pick last summer, who would almost certainly go back to extended spring training if Greene is in Dayton on April 5, but could crack the rotation if there is an opening.

      At this time, I do not believe there are any intentions of Greene getting at-bats this season but things do change sometimes.

  5. WoodrowPNW

    Chris Gruler. Sigh.
    (Turns off lights, rocks back and forth for a while.)

  6. Reaganspad

    Hunter is not fragile (thanks BTO)

    If he would have went to UCLA on scholarship, how many innings do you think that he would throw in the Pac 12?

    He would easily throw for 80-120 innings there as a freshman depending on his performance. William Kobias and I will insist that his outings against Stanford and Oregon State respectively would be short ones where he might be gone after 3 innings because he would have been at the hated bruins, but even with those rough outings, he could still hit 100 innings year one in college.

    Now had he gone to OSU, who lead the nation in ERA, he might have been limited because he would have to work his way to the weekend starting staff :>). He would probably be Stanford’s Friday starter.

    But hey, the kid is a Red. I hope they let him hit every start. He can easily throw 80 innings.

    He is not a veal or kobe beef

    William Kobias refs is for RedsMinorLeagues. I forgot which board I was on

  7. big5ed

    WV, you’ve been on Greene’s case since he signed. Greene isn’t hyping himself; other people are. And the notion that he was “lit up” and “shelled” at Billings is based on one inning at Missoula, in his second of three outings.

    The studies are almost uniform that heavy usage at ages 17-21 is a bad sign for future health. Greene turned 18 in early August, and the Reds have no reason to pile on innings on a teenage arm. He pitched 28 innings in high school, 4 at Billings, and then some in the fall instructional level. That was plenty.

    You are correct that he won’t go much over 100 innings next year, but that is a good thing, not a bad thing. The Reds aren’t going to use him like the Mets did Doc Gooden, who in 1984 at age 19 led the NL in strikeouts with 276 Ks in 218 innings. Gooden had 11.4 K/9 at age 19, and by his age 23 season, it was down to 6.3.

    I agree with you that patience is a virtue. If he is on the Reds at age 21 in 2021, then they’ve probably developed him properly. Having him in Cincinnati from 2021 to 2027 is likely the goal.

    I would start him at Dayton, but after keeping him in Arizona for 3-4 weeks until the weather warms up in Ohio. He doesn’t need to dominate lousy competition in the Appy League. He needs to learn how to pitch to professional hitters, which is best done by facing good hitters.

    Finally, I wouldn’t try to ration his innings too much. Once he gets to his innings limit, I would let him stay in Dayton as DH. Maybe he won’t pan out as a hitter, but a MLB pitcher who can handle the bat reasonably well is a better than one who can’t. He’s going to be in the majors, so he may as well get in an extra 60-80 ABs/year as a DH at the end of the year.

    • Michael E

      Well, to be fair, Gooden was doing cocaine and partying and basically lost, his collapse was all but certain due to not being a professional (not eating, drinking, sleeping like he should). Gooden proved, if anything, that you don’t have to have kid gloves on young athletes. You might want to be sure to have many meetings with a counselor or similar to be sure the kid(s) aren’t hanging with the wrong crowd, up all night and getting no sleep, etc.

      I think they’ll baby Greene this year like we’ve never seen because he didn’t pitch much last year outside of lots of tossing seesions I would guess.

      Personally, I think because he barely taxed his arm last year, I think the opposite should be in play, get him a full year in, 150 innings, skip two or three starts (every 7 starts or so).

      I fear the less you use a pitcher, the more likely they’ll never adapt to 200+ innings later. Babying causes as many injuries just as early as over-pitching (not sure that really exists). The only difference is when you pitch 240 innings, thats about 100 more than a babied pitcher meaning more chances to get injured. However, if you touted that as reason to baby, then you might as well never have your top prospect pitch, so, you know, he never gets injured. Sure, he’ll quit baseball or move on to another team after all the years of control are gone, never having thrown a pitch, but at least he’s healthy, eh?

      Sorry, I just can’t stand how every decade the pitch counts get even lower than the previous 10 years, the days between starts grow, rotations grow. Soon you’ll need 6 starting pitchers and not a one will top 160 innings, rarely making it through the 5th and just as rarely not qualify for a win.

      Rant off, sorry. I just hope they don’t baby Greene, let Greene say if he feels fatigued or gassed. Watch his pitching, if the ball is up a few pitches in a row in the 6th or 7th inning (or even the 2nd inning if he threw 40 pitches in the first), then go visit him and pull him to be cautious, but don’t set out with all these limits. It’s just DUMB.

  8. Joe McManus

    Most important and greatest ever are two separate things.

  9. David

    Don Gullett set Class A on its ear as a 19 year old in 1970, and made the jump to being a ML reliever that year. 5-2, with an ERA in the 2 something range. He was a set-up pitcher for Clay Carroll sometime around mid-season. 19 years old.
    The next year he was a starter and went 16-6, with pretty much just his fastball.

    He was the youngest pitcher in ML history to get to 100 victories, and then his shoulder went out, and his career was over.

    Hard to see if any of that early pitching correlated to his shoulder going out when he was 27 years old.
    Greene has a world of talent. He also has a great attitude. He will be a really good Major Leaguer if he doesn’t get hurt.

  10. scottya

    It’s really going to be an exciting season in the Minor leagues for the reds. Greene’s development will be fun to keep up with. Let’s hope he turns into a number one starter. The Louisville team is going to be fun. Not to mention Jose Siri, Taylor Trammell, Jose Israel Garcia, Jose Lopez development.

  11. Joe McManus

    I think part of the excitement is based on his seemingly incredible demeanor and poise for an 18 year old. You’re certainly not wrong that expectations are sky high, but if any 18 year old seemed poised for MLB success, for my money,hat’s Hunter.

  12. Sandman

    You talk about how it’s nearly impossible for a professional to be a two-way player in baseball.

    While I didn’t realize how demanding a hitters and pitchers regimes are, I guess I can understand. But I don’t like it when it comes to a player who apparently has his skills at the plate as well.

    If it’s NEARLY impossible then that would seem to leave some room for it to be possible.

    I would just hate to see his hitting skills wasted. If he and/or the managerial/coaching staffs could figure out SOME way for him to work on his hitting skills almost as much as his pitching talents. He could be a dual threat. An amazing weapon.

    If Hunter becomes no better than even the best hitting pitchers in MLB I would be disappointed.

    • Sandman

      But this is kind of why I would be in favor of the NL adopting the DH. I know that this is a hot button issue for a lot of people so I don’t wanna hear anything about the purity of the game, separate league identities, etc, etc. You know….the usual arguments people make in defense of allowing the pitcher to hit.

      The NL is called the senior circuit bcuz it’s been around longer than the AL but the AL has consistently won more games in interleague play. I assume there are some anomalies among certain NL clubs in this regard but I can’t know for sure without doing some research.

      But bottom line I believe one of the biggest reasons why the AL wins more games in interleague play and maybe even the WS & ASG is bcuz the pitcher don’t hit. I know that the DH is thrown out when an AL tm visits an NL and utilized when an NL tm visits an AL tm. But it seems to make little difference. If the NL was used to using the DH 162 gms a year instead of just a small handful of gms a year maybe things would be different…I don’t know. I just believe pitchers hitting makes the lineup weaker.

      • Eric the Red

        Of course letting pitchers hit makes the lineup weaker. But that’s true any time a guy takes the field because his defense makes him a better overall choice than another guy who could stand in the same spot on the field while being a better hitter. Why not let teams have 9 defensive specialists, and a separate group of 9 offensive specialists while you’re at it?

      • Sandman

        Eric the Red, are you being sarcastic or sincere?

      • Eric the Red

        Sarcastic. I’m strongly opposed to the DH, but as long as it exists I hope it never pollutes the National League. (But so long as it exists…regular season interleague games should probably use the DH in NL parks and have the pitchers bat in AL parks, so the fans can see the other type of game.)

      • Sandman

        Eric, I knew somebody would voice their opinion in opposition to the DH in the NL. I’m just tired of the pitcher’s spot being almost an automatic out at the plate. I don’t like Billy Hamilton & Peraza for these very reasons. I’m not saying that they are as weak as pitchers but Hamilton’s not much better. I do think Peraza will be a better hitter than Hamilton but not a barn burner.

  13. Streamer88

    I feel your sentiment. But to delicately explain to you why Hunter Greene is important to so many people I’ll ask you this question: think of the top 10 truly great starting pitchers of the last 50 years. Now how many of them are American born, American developed, and African American?

    He is just another prospect, sure. But in some ways, some very crucial ways, he is not just another prospect.

    That said, I wish they’d take the bubble wrap off him and get him dirty like everyone else.

  14. Sandman

    Does anybody know where I can find the all time interleague records of every MLB team?

    I’ve tried looking it up myself and the best I can get is the all time results updated thru part of the 2017 season. I don’t know why I can’t find the updated results for every single season including ALL of the 2017 season. The 2018 is about to start so you’d think I’d be able to find the all time results from ’97-’17. It’s incredibly frustrating and infuriating. Please help.

    • Sandman

      Tom, Thanx for your help. I really do appreciate it. But, what I wanted was the team-by-team all-time interleague records updated thru the entire 2017 season.

      That Wikipedia link took me to something that gave me the league records year-by-year all the way through the 2017 season. In the section where it listed the individual team records in interleague play, that was updated through the 2014 season only and even then it only gave the winning percentages.

      I don’t know why it’s so hard to find the desired results I wanted. I don’t know if MLB only updates each teams all time individual interleague records every so often or what. It’s definitely strange.

      Anyway, like I said before, I truly do appreciate you taking the time to help me.

  15. bouwills

    It’s a conundrum that so many on this site have already determined who Hunter Greene will be. We just don’t know. Reds really won’t have a fix on how good he may be for at least 1-1.5 years. Enjoy the ride. I’m much more concerned with who Jesse Winker, Amir Garrett, Dilson Hererra, Cody Reed, Phil Ervin, Sal Romano, Alex Blandino, Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, & Luis Castillo might be.

  16. Aaron Bradley

    A lot of free agents still available and the Reds are 10M under league average, why can’t they get another SP … the odds of Homer, Finnegan, and Disco all being healthy seem slim, and sure there are some good young players to flesh out the rotation I think they should kick the tires and see if a bargain can be made, this divison is looking tough are they going to concede it despite having Votto? How can they rationalize that?

    • Jeff Reed

      It seems to me the concession is, before the season has begun, that this is a rebuild year to see just what the Reds have with money available next year for possible free agents. With pitchers with injury history and a load of prospects, it does make sense although it’s doubtful to put a lot of fans in the seats.

    • bouwills

      Not to mention both Rookie Davis & Nick Travieso, returning from 2017 surgeries.

  17. Michael E

    WV, I have same attitude about Greene in a way. Mostly because of how truly awful the Reds franchise has been with highly touted high school pitchers. Though none had the upside of Greene, there were some good pitchers taken that never made it out of the minors. I just hope that IF he pitches fairly well, solid control, that the Reds don’t dawdle promoting him. He doesn’t appear to be the kind of teenager that would let a bad start or two or a bad stretch change who he is and will become (baseball wise). Seems fairly calm and confident.

    I will be watching MacKenzie Gore and Kyle Wright. Gore is very intriguing, maybe even moreso than Greene. I hope Greene changes my perception this year.

  18. Venom660turbo

    I would like to go against what has been done to Hunter and propose that he may be as much value as a top SS than a starting pitcher.

    A top flight starting pitcher can only affect the season what 20-30 times Vs a position player that can affect the season 149 plus games.

    Afffordibility and stability would have been better had he been bred a SS after drafting but such is a lost since he pitched last year in the minors!

    The fast balls are great but unless he can hang in with professional hitters we find ourselves in another Chapman situation which the Reds will bungle nonetheless.

    Under Barry Larkins tutelage this kid could have been one of the great seat shortstops of all time….but we will never know now!