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The third game in the Atlanta Braves – Cincinnati Reds season-opening series last Sunday was must-see television for the prospect obsessed across baseball. Fanatics had good reason, too; the Reds’ top prospect, fire-balling right-hander Hunter Greene would make his major-league debut against the defending World Series Champions. Considering I have the 23-year-old Greene parked comfortably within my top ten prospects and have multiple shares of him this season, I was one of many prospect fanatics tuned in to Bally Sports at 12:30 PM CST.

I’ll surmise I had as much or more excitement for the game to come as anyone else watching, though. Sure, Greene’s lofty status on my personal prospect list meant his debut was a good one to catch. Furthermore, I am aware of the SP Streamer article and assignments list – knowing I had this very piece upcoming made the game critical viewing.

Beyond it all, though – the stakes were higher than even these.

Because I’ve been waiting a long time on Hunter Greene.

Actually, hang on – let me explain.

1. I love what Hunter Greene represents

2009 was a hell of a year.

I graduated high school. Started college. Fell in love with a silly sport and a silly game called fantasy baseball.

I’ll never forget my grandfather Owen – my grandmother’s second husband who insisted upon my calling him by his given name since I was a five-year-old boy – excitedly showing me a Sports Illustrated cover which would change the way I thought about baseball.

The statistics were dazzling and did enough to tell the story on their own: “570-foot home runs, 96 mile-per-hour fastballs, 16 years old.” What meant more to me was the title and blurb situated on the left side of the image, though: “Baseball’s Chosen One: Bryce Harper is the most exciting prodigy since LeBron.”

“This kid’s the next Mickey Mantle,” Owen said. While he and I agree there is a player in modern MLB who most resembles his favorite all-time player Mantle, we are aware it’s Mike Trout; even so, Bryce Harper has been a favorite player of mine since the day Owen shared the SI cover story, dreaming together of the incredible things he would do in the big leagues.

Even thinking about this moment years later gives me chills – it was this moment when I realized the relevance young players, players who aren’t currently in Major League Baseball could really have on the game I was nurturing a love for. Tom Verducci’s brilliantly written teaser had sold me – and reading the full piece within only cemented the lore he’d built on the cover.

My mind had been unlocked. These young players could carry unreal potential and would be the stars of my own generation – it only made sense to keep an eye on them.

Fast-forward eight years and I am seeing another high-school player on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Helllllllooooooooo???

“Baseball’s LeBron or the new Babe? He’s 17. He mashes. He throws 102. Hunter Greene is the star baseball needs.”

Lee Jenkins, say less, man. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of Greene but seeing him where I’d seen Bryce eight years earlier was quite an endorsement.

I ripped the magazine open and soaked up every word Jenkins had written, each one hitting its mark and forming the initial opinion in my mind.

My prospect love had sharpened and wisened since the Bryce Harper revolution in 2009; I’d seen guys I thought couldn’t miss come and go, (Mike Olt…man, what happened?!) but something felt undeniable about Hunter Greene.

If you haven’t, I highly recommend Jenkins’ entire piece on Greene as he prepared to enter the MLB First-Year Player Draft, but I’ll share a few of the things I remember most as it relates to my next point:

2. I love who Hunter Greene is

If you’ve ever heard me discuss a prospect or player I truly love, there’s a great chance I spoke in detail about various intangibles a player may or may not possess.

Hunter Greene is no different.

Jenkins’ article details Greene’s regular practice of yoga, his learning Korean, practicing Violin, an affinity for Hip-Hop, his collection of Bass Pro Shop hats and fishing hobby, advanced-placement college art courses (the kid’s favorite techniques were bold images and bright colors), a sock drive he launched, and regular public speaking appearances.

I remember thinking “This kid is busier than I am,” and how right I was. Greene’s discipline and mental depth shone through this list of activities and hobbies he held in his senior year of high school, and this has never left my mind.

Both qualities are nothing but helpful for a 23-year-old tasting the big leagues for the first time – how many athletes have ‘made it’ and started slacking? How many fall apart at the first sign of adversity?

Hunter Greene is built differently, though. I’m no shaman, I have no crystal ball, but I would put significant money on Greene staying strong mentally, and staying disciplined towards his craft through his entire career.

What’s more? Hunter Greene is aware of the sort of role model he can be to underserved youth or those who may not see players who look like themselves playing on television.

Jenkins detailed how Greene, mere months before being taken second overall by the Reds, once threw out the first pitch for Ladera Little League, “situated in a predominantly African-American neighborhood.”

After his speech (“Your children are not being drafted today,” he cautioned the parents. “Ice cream after the game always works”), Greene stood at the bottom of the mound on the Majors field, tears under his Aviators. “I get it,” he said, in reference to the responsibility he is about to inherit.

This HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR was aware of the accountability he would have to the young people in his community – and the world – by representing them on the national and global stage, not only because of the similar color of their skin but because of the uncanny talent he possessed.

Understanding things go beyond simply yourself as a high school senior is generally commendable. Hunter Greene took this to another level and understood the lifelong commitment he was undertaking just by being a black man performing at the highest level imaginable.

Following his March 2019 Tommy John surgery and the 2020 campaign lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greene was faced with another mental hurdle – how can he come back from the first major injury of his career only months into his professional career? What will the long-term effects of the surgery be on his career? Thus far, Greene has shown nothing adverse, and in fact, has taken these punches and continued to roll.

Beyond the world-class mental strength and discipline, Hunter Greene is also world-class in another way, one you are likely much more familiar with.

3. I love what Hunter Greene can do

This kid, for all the intangibles, considering all the mental fortitude and maturity, can really – REALLY – shove it on a baseball mound. Greene possesses an above-average command of three pitches: a slider, a changeup, and his fastball – and boy, oh boy, has there been hullabaloo about the fastball for his entire career.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – Hunter Greene’s fastball has hit 103 miles-per-hour in the past. Frankly, though, velocity is old hat for Greene at this point. It’s been reported he was clocked at 93 MPH as a 14-year-old, for Pete’s sake. The fastball varied between 99 and 102 through the spring and has always been a double-plus pitch.

The velocity is truly disgusting, but an equal amount of hubbub has been directed at the shape of Greene’s fastball.

For the unaccustomed, the shape various pitches take is considered by many organizations to be equally as important as the velocity of said pitch. Former Astros Head of Scouting Kevin Goldstein wrote an incredible piece about the importance of pitch shapes which I would highly recommend to interested parties.

Greene’s fastball has just above-average vertical break and pedestrian horizontal movement, leaving him susceptible to hard contact when a batter can handle the considerable velocity.

The mathematically most similar fastball to Greene’s in 2021 was none other than Gerrit Cole’s; Cole’s fastball was incredible in 2021, amassing a 27.6 Whiff rate and a 34% K rate, and batters hit .225 against the pitch.

PITCH TYPE AVG. VELO (MPH) AVG. VBreak (in.) AVG. HBreak (in.)
Hunter Greene (4/10/22) 4-Seam FB 99.70 10.18 10.80
Gerrit Cole (2021) 4-Seam FB 97.70 10.90 12.00
2021 MLB Avg. (RHP) 4-Seam FB 93.95 15.27 7.25
2021 MLB Avg. 4-Seam FB 93.57 15.55 7.44
Hunter Greene (4/10/22) Changeup 90.00 19.62 11.85
Ryan Weathers (2021) Changeup 86.60 25.20 11.00
2021 MLB Avg. (RHP) Changeup 85.99 30.61 13.97
2021 MLB Avg. Changeup 85.36 30.83 13.99
Hunter Greene (4/10/22) Slider 86.11 36.39 6.22
Kendall Graveman (2021) Slider 87.40 35.50 5.80
2021 MLB Avg. (RHP) Slider 84.89 36.50 6.25
2021 MLB Avg. Slider 84.48 37.01 6.15

Mathematically speaking, it stands to reason that Greene’s fastball, whose velocity is even better than Cole’s, will play in the big leagues since Cole’s similar heater was the seventh-best over 2021 (17% Run-Value).

The slider makes for an excellent ‘Robin’ to the fastball’s ‘Batman,’ capitalizing as a tandem in a balanced and memorable way. Breaking opposite to the fastball, the slider keeps hitters honest and is located well, and serves as a true ‘out’ pitch. Greene’s slider is not only thrown with more velocity but breaks a bit more horizontally than the average slider in 2022. Kendall Graveman’s slider makes for a mathematically comparable pitch to Greene’s; the pitch had a ludicrous 48% K rate and a 43.8% Whiff rate in 2021.

Finally, Greene’s changeup is certainly his weakest offering and primarily works to draw whiffs, mentally ‘reset’ the batter, and artificially allow the four-seamer a fresh burst of velocity. Ryan Weathers’ changeup is the comparison here (please, limit your excitement, everyone) and is a great one-to-one expectation-setter for Greene; the whiffs, strikeouts, and hits will all trend in the opposite direction of his exceptional fastball and emerging slider for the foreseeable future. The feel for the pitch is improving, though, and Greene locates it steadily to the left side of the zone.

Many prospectors proposed Greene could make his MLB debut late last season, but the Reds exercised restraint, financial or otherwise, with their young flamethrower. However, following the lockout, a new CBA with prospect-friendly promotion language included, and a showy spring, Greene received the news he’d long been waiting for.

Welcome to the Show, Hunter Greene. The wait was finally over, not only for Greene but for me and the countless others anxiously awaiting his arrival to the big leagues.

And now, only the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves stood in his way!

Wait, what?!

4. Hunter Greene’s MLB Debut

The opportunity had arisen – so what did Hunter Greene do with it?

In short – he killed it.

Everything a chubby, bearded, conservative prospect fiend could have wanted, I got as Greene threw 92 pitches (the third most of the season as of his removal, far and away the most he’d thrown this season), earning seven strikeouts, walking a pair, and allowing three runs.

Greene’s fastball was just as electric as you’d expect – averaging 99.7 and scorching as high as 101.6 – and earned a stellar 32% CSW (called strikes + whiffs) through his five innings of work. The heater also returned 17 strikes in the 56 times it was thrown, and four of his seven strikeouts came by way of the fastball, as well.

Conversely, three of the four hits Greene gave up through the contest were due to the fastball, keeping pace with any concerns over the shape of the pitch. The trio of hitters who put a Hunter Greene fastball into game action are no slouches, either – Matt Olson got two, while Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna each hit one – so we can reasonably deduce our analysis of his fastball’s shape and general ability to play in the majors is sound. Batters WILL catch up to the fastball, especially after their first time seeing the pitch (Ozuna did), maybe even grounding or flying out by catching it the first time with a good, quick swing.

Altogether, seven of Greene’s fastballs were put into action in the game – three of them for outs, two scoring runs, and two allowing baserunners.

Greene’s slider was disgusting against the Braves. Flat-out, full-stop disgusting.

With a staggering 39% CSW and an average 2431 RPM, it should be no surprise the slider earned the other three strikeouts against Atlanta.

Greene had four of his sliders put into play, and of those, only one (Ozuna’s run-scoring swing in the fourth inning) would produce positive results for the Braves, while the other 75% would account for outs.

Predictably the pitch with the least action in the game, Greene’s changeup was the definition of ‘complimentary’ against Atlanta last Sunday. Ozzie Albies (who I would deem Greene’s primary nemesis in the contest, earning two walks) swung on a changeup in the fourth inning, and Eddie Rosario took one for a called strike in the first, then knocked one into play in the fifth, but beyond those, results for the pitch were suspect at best; Over 50% of the changeups Greene threw were taken for balls.

All told, Hunter Greene’s secondary pitches were just that – fine complementary offerings to play with his double-plus fastball. Continued development or grasp of his changeup would be a welcome addition to the young hurler’s repertoire, but as we stand currently, Hunter Greene went toe-to-toe with the defending World Series Champions and emerged victoriously.

“…But…what about the Dodgers?” pundits may ask. “Yeah, yeah, Atlanta won the Series, that ‘ole useless heap of tin it is, but the Dodgers, baby, that’s Diamond Dynasty coming to life, and you’re only allowed to play against them with one hand!

Okay, well—

“Take THAT, Hunter Greene. This surely will be the moment he’s sent crawling back to the minors with his silly flat fastball!”

…he was even better.

“…what?”

No, seriously. Greene’s fastball was up a half-mile-per-hour on average and blazed up to 102, earning a preposterous 40 percent CSW%. The slider (33% CSW) and changeup (40% CSW!) were also markedly improved against the mitochondrial Dodgers.

5. What can we expect from Hunter Greene?

All the chips are on the table.

Hunter Greene has debuted, and Major League Baseball seems to be universally high on the youngster’s future in Cincinnati and beyond. As of writing, Greene’s 70% zone-contact rate is the best mark among major-league starters, better than data darlings Corbin Burnes and Pablo Lopez, plus overnight successes Paul Blackburn and Tylor Megill.

I’ve given you plenty of rationales for why supporting Greene is easy to do and why I plan to do so for the duration of the young man’s career. It seems with every passing day, there are as many reasons added to this list as there are strikeout victims added to his total.

So, what can you reasonably expect for Hunter Greene in your own leagues?

Redraft

In redraft leagues, I would definitely take the shot in anything upwards of 10-teamers. The safer the floor of your pitching staff, the easier any bumps in the road will be to swallow, but I still project there to be fewer than many based upon the success against the elite level of competition he’s seen thus far.

Keeper

For keeper leagues of any size, Greene is an obvious candidate, though I worry your window of buying opportunity may be nearly closed at the moment. Keep your eyes peeled for the signs of struggle in Greene’s first big-league season – this is when you should test the resolve of your league’s manager to acquire the young flamethrower. The hiccups may come all at once and concern may arise, but trust the skills and stash this impact arm.

Dynasty

Finally, dynasty managers, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Chances are, a manager has had Greene for a long while (speaking from experience) and now, the numbers are rewarding their patience. Your window may be closed and locked, but it never hurts to try, right? Perhaps you can make room by trading an asset they believe in more than Greene to take on a talent I deem as being particularly worth the investment.

And just to be clear – I’m no fool.

The risk of Greene’s fastball shape never taking him to the next level is clear – it’s a risk any pitcher faces, though, and I still trust the odds of Greene’s talent playing beyond the fear of these reliever risks.

Even if Hunter Greene settles into the Reds’ bullpen (I’ll put the odds at 20 percent, for what it’s worth), this is a lights-out, all-star closer for years to come, who will torment and bully the National League in the ninth innings of many, many games.

Fortunately, I do not believe this will be the reality of the situation. I see a starting pitcher with boatloads of strikeouts and talent oozing with his every pitch.

I love Hunter Greene, and for a variety of reasons from either side of my brain; some of them are abstract, sentimental, even, and have nothing to do with the game we love, real or fantasy. Others are data-driven, concrete, and can be tracked with pen, paper, and know-how, and measured against others logically.

The fact both sides of my brain can agree on Hunter Greene assures me he’s special.

The fact I waited patiently for him to prove it makes it even sweeter.

Hey, thanks for reading and humoring me! If you liked what you read, please drop me some props on Twitter @drewisokay or follow me there for some more cool dynasty tips and thoughts. If you wanna talk dynasty, prospects, or Hunter Greene with me and the entire awesome crew of writers here at SP Streamer, you should consider a membership with SP Elite! Take it away, website – tell ‘em about it!

Thanks Drew! Join SPS Elite where you get access to our Discord chat, bonus articles, and much more!

Drew Wheeler

Drew Wheeler

Drew is many things, the most pertinent of which is 'okay.' Additionally, he is a husband, friend, Dachshund-dad, and fantasy baseball champion peddling his carefully-crafted opinions to the masses with a chaser of bad jokes. Follow him on Twitter @drewisokay for baseball, professional wrestling, and Survivor opinions galore.

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