It’s prospect list season right now, and with that comes the reaction (and often overreaction) to where certain prospects are ranked. In this specific case, we’re going to be talking about Hunter Greene, not being ranked, and why he’s now the most underrated prospect in the game of baseball.

Let’s rewind to the spring and summer of 2017. Hunter Greene was being talked about like a potential generational talent. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the draft. A possible 2-way player who had top 50 in the draft talent as a shortstop, but his potential on the mound made the idea of a team not having him on the mound full time a non-starter. A 17-year-old who could sit 97-100 MPH with his fastball, elite athleticism, and maturity beyond his years – Greene was said to have it all.

Cincinnati was thrilled to see him available when they were drafting second overall after the Minnesota Twins chose to select shortstop Royce Lewis with the first overall pick. Signing late for a record bonus in the draft pool allotted era, Greene only threw 4.1 innings that first professional season. Following the season, despite barely playing, he was rated as the #29 prospect in the game by Baseball America.

In 2018 he got out to a very tough start. In his first seven games he allowed 30 hits and 19 earned runs over 17.0 innings for Low-A Dayton. A lot of that was the result of an absurd .560 BABIP – nearly twice the league average. But starting on May 24th he put together the kind of run that his talent would lead you to believe was in there all along. Over the next 11 games he posted a 2.63 ERA in 51.1 innings with 13 walks and 63 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .195/.265/.346 against him with a .269 BABIP.

That run doesn’t include his stint in the 2018 Futures Game that saw him hit 103 MPH with his fastball. But he only made two appearances after that before injuring his elbow. With a torn UCL he opted to go for treatment and rehab with the hopes he wouldn’t need Tommy John surgery. In January, with the injury known, he was rated as the #57 prospect in Baseball America’s Top 100 list.

Things seemed to be going well, with Greene noting in October that he was 100%. The next spring he was in Goodyear and throwing off of the mound, and while he was expected to start the season shortly after it began, he was going to be a bit behind the others who broke camp on time. But in the last appearance he made in spring training before everyone left to go to their city to start the season he re-injured his elbow, tearing his UCL. This time he chose to undergo Tommy John surgery and would miss the 2019 season. Knowing he had gone under the knife and was rehabbing his way back, prior to the start of spring training, Greene rated 76th on the Baseball America Top 100 list.

When spring training began, the right-handed pitcher unveiled his new mechanics on the mound for the first time. His arm action was shorter and mimicked the changes that Anthony DeSclafani had made. Unfortunately for all of us, COVID-19 ran wild through the country, and most of the world for that matter, and it led to no Minor League Baseball season happening. But that didn’t stop Hunter Greene from getting his work in. Before spring training, or whatever you want to call it started back up in July, Greene was hitting 102 MPH once again. While the right-handed pitcher didn’t immediately join the Reds 60-man player pool when the second spring training began, right before the start of the regular season, on July 22nd, Greene was added to the pool. He would spend the rest of the year pitching at Prasco Park for the Reds. By the end of September when the alternate sites shut down with the end of the season he had thrown 100 innings on the year.

Back on the mound. 102 MPH in his back pocket. Healthy and through the 2020 year. There were no stats available for guys who didn’t reach the Major Leagues, which Greene didn’t do. But despite there not being much to look at with all of the alternate training sites closed off to the public – including journalists and scouts (though most teams did at least share in a video/Trackman/Rapsodo data sharing program), Greene fell from the #76 spot before the season to outside of the Top 100 after the season.

All of that brings me to the headline of this article: Hunter Greene is the most underrated prospect in baseball. In two years, without an official season, he’s dropped more than 50 spots on the Baseball America prospect list. And all of that’s come as he’s returned to the mound, shown that his velocity is back, made it through some sort of workload (the 100 innings mentioned above clearly includes side sessions that weren’t at Prasco Park) in 2020.

What’s changed in the last year and a half since he was rated 57th overall. When that ranking came out it was known he had a torn UCL and was trying to rehab the injury without surgery. He would later need Tommy John surgery, which led to another drop in rankings – understandable. But he’s back and healthy now. The athleticism is still there. His secondary stuff is still projecting just like before. And he even added a fourth pitch when he came back – a cutter – that he didn’t have before.

All of that to say that he still has the feel of the guy who was rated 57th a few years ago. And he’s still got the kind of upside that very few players in the minors have. There’s always going to be some risk of injury with pitchers. But other than that risk that’s there for all of them, there’s not really any reason to look at Hunter Greene and think he’s not a Top 100 caliber prospect right now. It just feels like he’s not the “shiny new toy” anymore and he’s being overlooked quite a bit.

If Hunter Greene had gone to college, he would have been a draft eligible junior in the 2021 draft. Here’s what his scouting report would have looked like, had their been a season played this year:

Fastball | Works 96-100 and touches 102 MPH. It’s been a bit straight, but the velocity is elite. He’s also tinkered a bit with a 2-seamer.

Slider | A pitch that flashes plus that works in the low-to-mid 80’s.

Change Up | A potential average pitch that is still a bit inconsistent.

Cutter | A new pitch that works in the upper 80’s to low 90’s.

Other | He’s already had Tommy John surgery, which does work against him. But he’s also rebuilt his mechanics as he’s returned. Elite athlete. Should have good control in the future with a chance to have command of multiple pitches.

If that guy were available in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft he’d have gone incredibly high. But this just feels more like the “shiny new toy” situation where Greene is being underrated because he’s been around a bit and we’ve been able to focus more so on what he hasn’t done – pitch in front of people – for two years now. Part of that is due to the injury, but part of that was entirely out of his control, too. He pitched this year and the scouting report by-and-large is like the one he had coming out of high school and was considered an easy choice as a Top 50 prospect.

28 Responses

  1. Drew

    Doug – I think you are spot on with this assessment. His stuff is still elite, the shine is off and 2 years of injury/COVID simply puts him in the “you gotta show me” category. I think by mid-year he will be back on everyone’s radar.

    • Gaffer

      I agree and bet he even makes a 2-3 game showing in September in the big club.

  2. Billy

    Any idea what the data sharing said about his performance? We don’t know what happened at Prasco, but we do know that there was information made available that we have no access to. Could that be what has driven his stock down?

    Any idea where the Reds will start him this season?

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t really know what specifically happened there. I do know that I’ve seen some of the Trackman and Rapsodo data in the past, though, even post injury and nothing jumped out as “red flag this is bad”.

      If it there was something “performance related”, it’s worth noting that he was 20-years-old and pitching against what was basically a bunch of AAA guys, a lot of them with big league experience.

      Basically, I’m just leaning on the scouting stuff we do know. Given that he was 20 and facing the competition he did this year, I wouldn’t be worried about any “performance” when it came to things.

  3. Gaffer

    I totally 100% agree with you, which is not often the case. While I think your view of the reds prospects is nearly always overly rosy, how can he NOT be a top 100 prospect. Sure he has a mildly high flameout factor but he also could be a massive difference maker or at least a top flight reliever.

    • Datdudejs

      I mean, until he has 3 usable pitches he’s likely a bullpen guy. Especially with his injury history. I think this is a big part of it, more so then the shiny new aspect

      • Gaffer

        I actually would put 2 to 1 odds on him being a bullpen guy but that still has value.

      • Sean

        Why Gaffer? Cause he throws hard? He has extremely simple and effective mechanics. Kyle Boddy specifically has talked about how his slider is most likely a plus plus pitch. He has all the making of a starting pitcher to me. The mechanics are simple the mindset is there I don’t see any real red flags.

      • Gaffer

        I think he can start but I just think the “odds” are that he doesn’t develop a third pitch, throws too many pitches to get thru 6 innings, and his fastball may be too easy to “see” third time thru the order. However that is true for most pitchers, but yes way more often for hard throwers.

  4. BK

    It certainly is strange to see Greene drop completely out of the Top 100. Lodolo, too for that matter. However, pretty much all of the national writers have dropped him (them). Both are pretty well known so they weren’t overlooked. I would think reports from Prasco must have been concerning. Have any of your contacts within the Reds shared concerns? That said, I hope you are right and the national writers proved wrong.

    • Doug Gray

      That’s the thing – I have talked to three different people who saw them pitch this year, and nothing exactly jumped out as negative. There were some “they have something to work on” kind of comments – but again, we’re talking about a 20-year-old Greene (he’s 21 now) and a guy drafted in 2019 who were basically pitching in Triple-A out at Prasco. The odds or even expectations that either would have gone out and been outstanding from start to finish would have been a bit much, right? Both guys were probably slated to pitch in Advanced-A this year, so they started out two levels higher than where they otherwise would have gone in a normal development year.

  5. Stock

    I heard Greene and Lodolo got knocked around some at Prasco. But as Doug said, considering Greene’s age and just as important his lost year this is not much of a concern.

    I heard Green changed his armslot back to where it was in high school. This means less carry on his fastball. A concern to scouts.

    But I agree with Doug. Greene belongs in the top 50. By October I see him in the top 25. I could even see him in the to 10.

    • Doug Gray

      Yeah – I don’t know what all was or wasn’t out there – but there were certainly some reports that each guy ran into some struggles at certain times there. But again – neither was expected to really pitch at this level (AAA) this past season, either. No one at all should be surprised that they would run into a hiccup or two while pitching against that level of competition.

      But each guy also had some good reports on the improvements that they made at Prasco, too.

      One thing to bring up with regards to both hitters and pitchers and “performance” at the alternate sites: I’ve read pitchers talk about it – not just Reds guys, but other teams pitchers, too – guys aren’t exactly using everything they can while at these sites. You aren’t going to purposefully bust a guy inside to try and back them up or try to set them up with something away. You are going to be a little more thoughtful on throwing inside, in general, because that’s your teammate – you don’t want to hit them accidentally. That works against the pitchers and it helps the hitters. We don’t have any stats that we can look at, but I’d imagine if we did, for the entire league’s alternate sites, we’d see some stuff that didn’t quite meet our expected norms.

  6. Hoyce

    If a guys fastball is straight and/or he can’t stay healthy. I’dont care if he can throw 200 mph.

    • Doug Gray

      No one is hitting 200 MPH fastballs, straight or not. So you should really care if someone can throw that hard.

      Straight fastballs are easier to hit. But the more velo you have, the better it also makes the other stuff you’ve got. Obviously it’s better to have movement with the velo – but the velo matters for more than just the fastball itself. You’ve got to start a little earlier for 99 than 94, which also means you are deciding sooner on offspeed stuff, which tends to not go well for the hitter because that tenth of a second means you have less time to identify the pitch as a non-fastball.

      We’ll see how things go in 2021, particularly with adding some movement to the pitch and how it plays against older, and more advanced hitters at whichever level he winds up pitching at (I’m just guessing here, but I’d say Double-A). As noted, Greene did start messing around with a 2-seamer. Maybe that’s where he starts showing more movement on the pitch. Maybe there’s something the pitching coaches can work with him on, grip wise, that does something.

      Right now, it’s not something I’m overly worried about.

      • Doc

        The difference between 99 mph and 94 mph is 0.022 sec, considerably less than a tenth of a second, and that assumes the ball is traveling 60 ft, 6 inches. Since release varies, but is inevitably less than 60.5 ft, the difference in time to plate is a tick less than 0.022 sec.

      • MIichael E

        at 200 mph, I do care, mostly about all the hand injuries for a slew of catchers. Also broken face masks stabbing their face and eyes. Nuts.

  7. DaveCT

    One other factor is the program he is in that provides a strong opportunity for him to be his best, on top of all of his tangible and intangible abilities. This is a key factor though it may not make the pure prospect tools eval style. But think about it. How is the opportunity to train with Boddy, full-time as part of your organization and your job, not a consideration? Shouldn’t that be a factor in Hunter’s prospects for success? Or at least his success in rehabbing his arm in conjunction with Boddy. It boggles my little pea brain.

    • Doc

      The whole discussion assumes prospect lists have any value, which they generally don’t. Makes no sense, to me anyway, to try to compare a pitching prospect to a position player prospect, as one example. It would be interesting to take the last ten or twenty years worth of prospect lists and compare them to who actually made the big leagues, much less made a splash. Where was Forrest Whitley on the prospect lists, to cite one example?

      Greene has a half season of dominant pitching in Class A. He has all the tools in the world, but his ‘prospect status’ depends solely on performance moving forward, and how he performs remains to be seen and is independent of how we think he will perform.

  8. Datdudejs

    I mean, until he has 3 usable pitches he’s likely a bullpen guy. Especially with his injury history. I think this is a big part of it, more so then the shiny new aspect

  9. Michael E

    I did think his fastball looks awfully straight. I hope he can get some movement on it. The appear-to-be-rising Cole thing or Verlander run, etc. The cutter would help for sure if the velocity is strong enough.

    Obviously a solid changeup would make his fastball that much more difficult, if it gets a bit of movement. Nuts.

  10. Stock

    actually the difference between 94 and 99 is .057 seconds or about 5%. You get 5% more time to process a 94 MPH fastball than you do to process a 99 MPH fastball. The difference in swinging strike rate is huge.

    Fangraphs had an article on swinging K% per speed on Fastball and the curve was huge.