Can the Detroit Tigers succeed without their star outfielder?

Detroit Tigers outfielder Riley Greene has been one of their best hitters since getting to the MLB, but health has been a question, and losing a leadoff hitter is a huge blow.

New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers
New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages

Riley Greene was one of the cornerstone draft picks of the Al Avila era in Detroit, getting drafted fifth overall in the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The Detroit Tigers had found their future center fielder and a top-of-the-order hitter.

Since then, Riley Greene has thrived in this organization, slashing .271/.335/.405. These are good numbers for only being 23 years old. Greene has mostly been working center field and hitting leadoff for the Detroit Tigers, but this is also in a lineup with no depth. With his speed and ability to put the bat on the ball, he is a viable top-of-the-order hitter. He plays a good center field and worked well in right field when Parker Meadows burst onto the scene last season during a Greene injury.

Greene's contact also plays well with the lineup behind him. Kerry Carpenter is another good table-setter with good pop, and Spencer Torkelson is a long ball threat in his own right, so a guy at the top of the order to get on base before the sluggers come up is your prototypical leadoff hitter. This has proven true over Greene's two seasons on the squad, where he averages over a run per game.

The issue with Greene is that he has not played 100 games in a season yet. He has had a plethora of injuries holding him out of action. In Spring Training of 2022, Greene fouled a ball off his foot, fracturing it and delaying the start of his career. Then, in 2023, he had a stress fracture in his left fibula that held him out of action, followed by an elbow injury made on a diving play. After an injury, a player not only misses time but needs time to ramp back up in-game action. This has put a bit of a damper on Greene throughout his career.

The Detroit Tigers need hitting, and consistently playing without Riley Greene is detrimental.

In an extremely fragile lineup, and with bench players not being of the caliber of other teams, Greene needs to keep himself healthy. Some fans have labeled him as a reckless player, as he frequently dives and crashes into walls in the outfield. To an extent, this may be true. There is the other end of the scale, too, where if he doesn't dive for fly balls or risk hitting a wall, fans will call him lazy and question his defense.

I think Greene could benefit immensely if Parker Meadows continues to succeed. Meadows can patrol center field, moving Greene to right field where he would have less ground to cover and less of a need for crashing or diving plays. With his speed, he would be able to get to almost everything hit his way without having to risk putting not only himself on the injured list but his team in a hole.

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