When the 2018 season began it would be tough to argue that Hunter Greene wasn’t the most exciting prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization. He was the previous years 1st round draft pick and the recipient of the largest signing bonus in the history of the draft since baseball set up limits on spending. His raw talent, his athleticism, his poise – it all jumped off of the pages at you. But in 2017, the year in which he was drafted, the Reds took it slowly with him and he barely played as a 17-year-old in Billings. In the offseason he focused solely on pitching after being given some playing time as a designated hitter with the Mustangs the previous year.
After a tough start to the 2018 season in Dayton that was full of just absolutely terrible luck through his first seven starts where his batting average on balls put in play against him was .560 (this is literally almost double of what the league average is), things got better. And quickly. The 18-year-old dominated from his 8th start of the year on. Over the next two months he posted a 2.63 ERA for the Dragons. He made 11 starts and threw 51.1 innings where he allowed just 36 hits, walked just 13 batters, and he struck out 63. His offspeed stuff took steps forward, and his fastball overpowered many hitters along the way.
But on July 26th he left his start after just 2.0 innings of no-hit baseball. It would be the last time he saw the mound in 2018. A week later he would be diagnosed with a tear in his UCL. Hunter Greene and the Cincinnati Reds chose to go with the option of rehab rather than immediate Tommy John surgery. The tear was not enough that it was an immediate “there’s no way rehab will work”, and with the team having success with both Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani under similar circumstances, it seemed like a good move.
A little more than a month ago Hunter Greene shared the news that his elbow was 100% healthy. Since then he’s stated that he had hoped to begin throwing in December. On Friday he shared video on his instagram stories of him throwing at the Reds complex in Goodyear. It wasn’t off of the mound. But even with it being flat ground throwing, he didn’t seem to be holding back.
And there is no reason to hold anything back, either. A source confirmed to me that Hunter Greene is unrestricted and on a normal throwing program as he prepares for the 2019 season. The upcoming season could be very interesting for Greene. As noted above, he closed out the year with the kind of run that an elite prospect would. And he did it at an age when his same-age peers would have been in complex leagues. If he’s similar to that version next year he could rocket his way up multiple levels.
The bigger question could be how his innings would be handled. Hunter Greene will be 19-years-old next season. The Reds have a new farm director this year. And they’ll have a new pitching coordinator, too. But in the past, they’ve limited players at that age to between 120.1 and 136.0 innings. That list only includes three players dating back to the 2011 season. Sal Romano threw 120.1 innings in 2013 with Dayton. In 2017 Andrew Jordan threw 131.1 innings and Wennington Romero threw 136.0 innings – both also with Dayton.