There were a few big questions about ongoings in the Cincinnati Reds farm system this year, but one of them revolved around Hunter Greene. The Reds #2 overall pick in the 2017 Major League Baseball draft seemed like he was heading to Dayton by all reports. The bigger question wasn’t where he’d show up, but when? At just 18-years-old there would understandably be some caution on pitching him in the cold month of April in the Midwest League, where I’ve personally stood in the photo well while it’s been snowing before. And there’s also the organization wanting to be cautious with the workload of innings that they will put on his arm at such a young age.
I was able to confirm early this evening, and then as I was typing that first paragraph, it seemed that Hunter Greene confirmed it himself in a tweet, that he will begin the year in Dayton with the Dragons when they begin their season. It was early in spring training where Greene had mentioned he was hoping to begin the year with Dayton rather than hang back in extended spring training. It appears that he will be getting that wish.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, it’s going to be a season in which the Cincinnati Reds will want to control how many innings that are put on Hunter Greene’s arm. He’s not just young, but he’s very young. The right handed pitcher will be younger than some of the high school players selected in the upcoming draft. Over the last few seasons, teams – and not just the Reds – have pretty much kept high school pitchers in their first full season under 100.0 innings for the entire first season.
In the 2016 draft there were nine high school pitchers taken in the first round. All of them were at least 19-years-old when they played last season. Only one of them topped 100.0 innings – the Braves Joey Wentz. He threw 131.2 innings. Only two others topped 83.0 innings. In the 2015 draft it was more of the same. Of the eight pitchers taken in the 1st round from the high school ranks two guys topped 100.0 innings. The Braves Mike Soroka threw 143.0 innings, suggesting that the Braves are working on a different plan of bringing along young pitchers than other organizations are. Jake Woodford of the Cardinals threw 108.2 innings. Worth noting that the Braves did also draft Kolby Allard in 2015, and like Greene, he was a 17-year-old when selected. They limited him to 87.2 innings that first full season as a professional.
How will the Reds monitor Hunter Greene’s innings in 2018?
While I haven’t spoken to anyone with the Reds regarding a specific plan for Hunter Greene, the same people are in charge that have been for the last few years. And that group has been cautious with young pitchers. I’d be very surprised if they allowed Greene to throw more than 100.0 innings on the season. With a 140 game schedule in Dayton, and with a 5-man rotation, going every 5th game would mean 28 starts. That’s unlikely to happen. The organization will likely use a few off days to skip a start here or there, then try to use the All-Star break to push back a start.
On top of getting creative with limiting the starts from a full-season of 28 to something closer to 20, the team will also likely look at limiting the number of innings within those starts. While innings are one way to track things, pitches come into play as well. There could be nights where 6.0 innings can be a breeze, while 4.0 innings could require the same number of pitches and be a struggle. How the Reds go about controlling all of this is going to be very interesting.