If you weren’t able to tune in to last night’s game between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Angels, you missed quite a show during the first inning. Cincinnati’s top right-handed pitching prospect, Hunter Greene, drew the start and proved that he belongs in the major leagues, however, the 21-year-old still has some wrinkles to iron out.
Greene hadn’t set foot on a ball field to pitch in a game since he was shutdown in 2018 due to a sprained UCL. A setback in his rehab resulted in further time away from the game and eventually Tommy John surgery in 2019. The lack of minor league season in 2020 meant that Greene had to wait a little longer to showcase his elite-level talent.
Reds pitcher Hunter Greene lit up the radar gun early.
If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Reds and not excited about Hunter Greene, you must not be paying attention. Greene is easily the most exciting pitching prospect Cincinnati has had since Aroldis Chapman, and his fastball is eerily similar to the now-Yankees closer.
Greene’s first pitch registered at 101-MPH. Not to be outdone, Greene’s second delivery was clocked at 102-MPH. The right-hander reared back and delivered his third pitch at 103-MPH. Greene was dealing straight gas, but his fourth pitch, which was also 103-MPH was laced into right field for a base hit by the Angels’ David Fletcher.
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, who was Greene’s battery-mate during the first inning, seemed to be in awe of the former first-rounder’s fastball. Barnhart spoke glowingly about Greene after the game. Here’s a quote via Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:
"“His fastball is elite. If you look in the baseball dictionary, and ‘easy cheese’ was in there, it would be like a picture or video of him. It’s incredible how hard he throws.”"
While Hunter Greene’s fastball may be elite, his breaking stuff obviously is still a work in progress. After a passed ball allowed Fletcher to head over to second base, Greene hit the next batter and then allowed a first-pitch home run to former Reds shortstop José Iglesias.
Hunter Greene’s debut wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.
After allowing the three-run bomb to Iglesias, Hunter Greene walked Jared Walsh on for straight pitches and an ensuing mound visit from pitching coach Derek Johnson helped to calm the young prospect down. Greene recorded his first punch out against the next batter, but then allowed a single down the right field line, putting runners at first and second.
Greene’s next misstep occurred on a routine 3-1 play on a ground ball to Joey Votto. As Votto flipped the ball to Greene, he misplayed it off his glove, allowing the runner to safely reach first base. Thankfully, Greene recovered quickly and delivered a bullet to home plate where Barnhart was waiting to tag out Walsh.
Hunter Greene’s start for the Reds shows promise, but he’s still got work to do.
Hunter Greene showed why the baseball world as a whole is ready to embrace the former No. 2 overall pick. The California native has elite stuff. That said, his long absence from in-game action coupled with a return from Tommy John surgery will certainly require the right-hander to spend some time in the minors perfecting his craft this season.
Word came down yesterday that the Triple-A season will be delayed by at least four weeks, but that shouldn’t really affect Greene, as he’ll likely start the 2021 season at Double-A Chattanooga or perhaps Advanced-A Dayton. However, once Greene establishes that he’s able to routinely get outs in the minors, there’s no reason to believe Cincinnati will delay his route to the big leagues.
The opportunity exists for Hunter Greene to make his Cincinnati Reds debut in 2021, but I think next season is more likely. However, if the team is in contention in September, don’y rule out Greene emerging from the bullpen for the Reds with an eye on the starting rotation in 2022.