A new age of baseball has officially dawned. Prospects have ruled the game this year, both across the minors and the landscape of first-year names at the big league level. One such prospect, who is considered one of the best in baseball, is Detroit Tigers outfielder Riley Greene.
The 20-year-old, who was the number five overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, circumvented High-A this year and has risen to the challenge exceptionally. Along with 2020 top overall pick Spencer Torkelson, the Erie Seawolves hold a ton of power in their punch, and Greene has been one of the main parts of that future capital making their way to the Motor City.
Greene moved quickly through the system in 2019 as a first-year player. He began with a nine-game stint in the Gulf Coast League, where he slashed .351/.442/.595 in 43 plate appearances. Those numbers produced a 192 wRC+. His next stop came at Low-A, as Greene nearly picked up where he left off by slashing .295/.380/.386 and posted a 135 wRC+, as well as cutting down his strikeout rate from 27.9 percent to 25 percent.
Against the background of standing up to more robust competition, Greene was slung back to earth despite doing a decent job in his stint at West Michigan. In an age gap of over three years his senior, Greene slashed .219/.278/.344 and posted an 80 wRC+, again cutting down the strikeouts.
Welcome to the Thunderdome, Riley Greene!
Greene skipped a level of professional baseball, and instead of starting back with West Michigan in 2021, he began with Erie in Double-A. So far, systems go for the kid who officially turns 21 at the end of September. There has been a massive amount of maturity in Greene’s bat this season, as he has hit 16 home runs in just 84 games, or one home run, on average, in a little over every five games. An almost unbelievable rate.
Not only is the improved power swing a positive thing, but he has 12 stolen bases to go with a .298 average and 143 wRC+. On Tuesday, Greene made another giant leap and received the call to Triple-A Toledo. He proceeded to go 1-for-3 with 2 BB, an RBI and 2 Ks. An auspicious beginning of hopefully more incredible things to come for the kid from Florida.
Paul J. Hagerty high school in Oviedo, Florida, is a long-standing spot for developing talent. Vaughn Grissom, for instance, was also selected in 2019 in the 11th round. In 2015, the Baltimore Orioles selected standout prospect Ryan Mountcastle 36th overall. Starting pitcher Zach Eflin is also a product of the program.
He, Eflin and Mountcastle are the two who have produced at the major league level, although it shouldn’t be too long before the kids make their debut.
Greene made the Baseball America ‘Hot Sheet’, a breakdown of the past week’s hottest prospects. To include his Triple-A debut, the sweet-swinging left-hander is slashing in his past ten games .452/.521/1.024 with a 1.545 OPS and a 297 wRC+. Greene is also gaining free passes at a 12.5 percent clip and has lowered his strikeout rate to 16.7 percent over the span.
The Tigers have a rich prospect history, and it continues with the likes of Greene. He has a grand future ahead, and will help to make baseball fun again in Detroit for many years to come.