Detroit Tigers uber-prospect Riley Greene has continued to show poise and confidence at the highest minor league levels
As the 2021 season winds down, many Detroit Tigers fans are already looking toward the offseason; excited about the prospect of adding some premier talent to complement a club that has largely over-performed this season. There has been a blaring buzz about Chris Illitch’s comments about the impact talent they intend to add–coupled with the premier shortstops that are heading to the open market and fans are practicing their photoshop skills on Carlos Correa.
To underscore that excitement, though, are the talents in Toledo. It’s no mistake that Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, and Ryan Kreidler were all promoted together. Keeping highly thought-of players playing together has value; not only in familiarity on the field but also as a companion to share and console in the experiences that come with such a jarring change.
None have looked out of place necessarily, but it has become apparent that Riley Greene is ready for the big leagues as early as Opening Day 2022. Now, before the patience-preachers start swinging folded up newspapers at me, let me say that I typically take a methodical approach to player development as well. I thought Casey Mize and Matt Manning could have both used a little extra time–that turned out to be true.
However, Greene is a bit of a different breed; not only because he’s a position player, but he’s yet to take any real major lumps throughout his minor league career, despite being one of the youngest players on the field on any given night. Specifically, I was impressed with Greene’s ability to make adjustments at the plate in his brief Triple-A stint.
I attended Greene’s debut in Toledo and a separate game a few days later and there was a common theme: pitchers were pounding Riley Greene with outside pitches. In my viewings, he struggled with those offerings and Triple-A pitching is certainly more able to locate consistently than the lower levels. Here is my look from his debut game in Toledo:
As one can see, Greene was continually pounded on the outer third. His issue wasn’t his eye, though. He was able to lay off pitches outside the zone. However, he did struggle to square up anything on the outside part of the plate and took several strikes there as well. This was evident in my second viewing as well, although I don’t have a video from that game.
Contrast those looks with this:
As an evaluator, it is exactly what we look for and emphasizes the importance of getting multiple looks. Greene has been able to adjust to the adjustments, which shows maturity and instinct that not every prospect has. These types of adjustments are what will keep him in the big leagues (just ask Akil Baddoo).
The numbers bear this out as well; he’s been nearly identical offensively between Erie and Toledo. Across 84 games with Erie, Greene slashed .298/.381/.525 for the Seawolves. In his 31 games with the Mud Hens, he’s gone .296/.382/.552 with almost the same home run rate at both stops.
We’ve established that Greene deserves a legitimate big-league shot next spring solely based on his performance in 2021, but there are also reasons outside of his control that may play into the Detroit Tigers’ decision next spring as well.
A new CBA is brewing this winter and high on the player union’s list is to address service time manipulation. Most arguments for keeping prospects down who are on the cusp of the big leagues are mostly related to starting their service time clock. If this issue is addressed and this friction is effectively negated, it makes the Detroit Tigers decision on Greene that much easier.
From a needs perspective, too, Greene makes sense. If the Tigers do decide to open the pocketbooks this winter, spending money on another outfielder probably wouldn’t be high on their list of priorities. Shortstops and starters will likely take the bulk of those dollars available. Meanwhile, Derek Hill and Daz Cameron both haven’t been healthy long enough for either to make their respective case to be an everyday player.
Grossman is under contract next season and figures to patrol a corner. Baddoo, meanwhile, has spent the majority of his time in left and center. This would likely leave an opportunity for someone like Greene to step in for that third spot. A bat like his would make the team better regardless, but his fit makes the move practical.
The Detroit Tigers sound determined to try to win as many games as possible moving forward. If they are serious about that pursuit, the right move is having a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat in your starting lineup in Seattle no later than March 31, 2022.