The Detroit Tigers officially re-assigned Riley Greene to mini-camp last Saturday, but that didn’t prevent him from providing one of the lasting memories of 2021 spring training.
Serving as a reserve outfielder for the Detroit Tigers during a rare evening tilt against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL, Riley Greene didn’t get his first at-bat until the 9th inning. He worked himself into a 2-0 count, and then Toronto reliever Dany Jiménez served up a juicy 93-MPH meatball:
Riley Greene demolished that ball. A few years ago that’s about all we would have been able to say about it. It didn’t clear the fence, and would soon be forgotten.
But Major League Baseball added Statcast tracking data to a number of spring training parks this year, so now we can say something else about that double.
Riley Greene has the hardest hit in Detroit Tigers history.
History is a relative term here, of course, as Statcast tracking data only goes back to 2015, and this is the first season with data from spring training. It’s possible one of Miguel Cabrera’s epic tiki bar blasts or a Cecil Fielder laser was hit harder, but we’re working with the data we have.
Riley Greene’s double left his bat at 115.8 MPH. That’s just the second time a Detroit Tigers hitter has posted a 115-MPH exit velocity, besting a 115.6-MPH single from Cabrera in 2015.
Players can get lucky hits. They can even get lucky home runs. But no one can luck into hitting a ball that hard. It takes an elite mix of bat speed, contact ability, and raw power. And Riley Greene has all three.
To put Greene’s missile into better context, just 12 MLB players hit a ball that hard last year, and only 2 of them were left-handed — Rafael Devers and Rowdy Tellez.
Since 2015 there have been more than 682,000 balls put in play during MLB games, and just 266 of them have been hit 115.8 MPH or harder.
Riley Greene may never hit a ball that hard again. Or yesterday’s blast might be the first of many rockets as Greene establishes himself as one of the best sluggers in the game. Either way, he’s our number one Detroit Tigers prospect, and we can’t wait to see him hit in Comerica Park.