Reds: Don’t rush top prospect Hunter Greene to the major leagues

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Hunter Greene (79) waits for a signal.
Los Angeles Angels At Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Hunter Greene (79) waits for a signal. Los Angeles Angels At Cincinnati Reds /

You’re not going to find many Cincinnati Reds fans who are bigger cheerleaders for the franchise’s top pitching prospect than me. It’s exciting to see Hunter Greene make the leap from Double-A Chattanooga to Triple-A Louisville, but fans should temper their expectations, and unless the right-hander has an opportunity to start, he needs to stay in the Derby City for the rest of 2021.

I’m more than aware that Cincinnati employs the worst relief corps in the National League, and the idea of adding Greene’s 100-plus MPH fastball to the backend of the bullpen sounds intriguing. That said, Greene needs to continue to refine his secondary pitches over the remainder of the season at Triple-A Louisville.

Reds prospect Hunter Greene should finish 2021 in Triple-A.

Could Hunter Greene be an asset to the Cincinnati Reds bullpen this season? You bet your bottom dollar he could. The right-hander has dominated the competition at Double-A this season, going 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, 2.39 FIP, and 60 punch outs over 41 innings.

While those numbers are impressive, Greene has only tossed 113.2 innings in his brief professional career. Luis Castillo spent six seasons in the minor leagues and threw 460.1 innings. Sonny Gray, who completed three years at Vanderbilt University, hurled 303.1 innings. Even the likely Cy Young Award-winner, Jacob deGrom, threw over 300 innings in the minors.

Now, I’m not suggesting that there’s some magic number or innings pitched or pitches thrown that qualify a young player to make it to the big leagues, but seeing as how Greene’s entire 2019 and 2020 seasons were wiped out due to injury and the coronavirus pandemic. respectively, there’s no reason to rush the 21-year-old to the major leagues only to work in relief.

Instead, Cincinnati should stick to the plan and focus on getting Greene and his former Chattanooga Lookouts’ teammate, Nick Lodolo, ready to be part of the starting rotation in 2022. According to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Lodolo has been suffering with blister issues over the past couple games, but is expected to follow Greene to Louisville.

Hunter Greene should only get the call if there’s an opening in the Reds rotation.

There are only two scenarios in which Hunter Greene should receive a call to play for the Cincinnati Reds this season; a September call-up, or an injury or trade opens a spot in the starting rotation. Under no circumstances should Greene be brought up to pitch out of the bullpen.

Given the way the Reds’ season has unfolded, both scenarios exist, but Cincinnati is currently above .500 and within striking distance of first-place in the NL Central. Fans can see a light at the end of the tunnel with Mike Moustakas likely too return this week. Both Nick Senzel and Michael Lorenzen should return to the team around or after the All-Star break.

If this team falters in the coming weeks and falls out of contention, we could easily see Cincinnati’s front office deal starters Wade Miley and Sonny Gray to contending teams prior to the July 30th trade deadline. Luis Castillo could be on the trade block as well.

With Tony Santillan and Vladimir Gutierrez reaching the bigs this season, Cincinnati’s front office has shown a willingness to promote the club’s top talent. Both Santillan and Gutierrez figure into the Reds future plans for the starting rotation, though Santillan may eventually transition into a reliever.

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Hunter Greene has the makings of a top-tier starting pitcher in the major leagues. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery early in his career, the right-hander has shown no ill-effects and the 21-year-old is mature beyond his years. Greene’s ascension through the minor leagues should stop at Triple-A in 2021, and the team’s top prospect should be full steam ahead in 2022.