March 19, 2015
Greene was a 15th-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2009 out of Daytona Beach Community College. His first few years as a professional were hardly cause for excitement, as he posted ERAs of at least 4.37 in each of his first three minor-league seasons. At that point the righty was more organizational depth than anything else. Then, in 2013, he dramatically reduced his walk-rate between High-A and Double-A, putting himself back on track for a major-league career. He would be added to the 40-man in the following winter, and made his MLB debut last year after a mediocre stint in Triple-A.
What Went Right in 2014
Once he was called up to pitch for the Yankees, Greene impressed in 78 2/3 innings over 14 starts and one relief appearance. The reduced walk rate that he broke through with in 2013 stuck with him at the highest level, as he walked a manageable 3.3 batters per nine with an essentially average 8.4 percent rate. On top of that, he racked up strikeouts at a rate he never flashed in the minors. He struck out over a batter an inning, and his K% was three points higher than the league average. His strong whiff rate suggests it’s not entirely a fluke. Combining the solid walk and strikeout rates with a ground-ball rate over 50 percent, Greene was able to finish his first MLB stint with a reasonable 3.78 ERA. He wasn’t perfect, and we’re dealing with a small sample here, but there was plenty to like last season.
What Went Wrong in 2014
It wasn’t all roses for the 26-year-old, though. While he kept plenty of balls on the ground, he also gave up some very hard hits, finishing the year with a .330 BABIP and a 27 percent line-drive rate allowed. Greene also struggled as he got deep into games, even more than the typical pitcher. Of the 182 pitchers who made at least 10 starts in 2014, his opponents’ OPS the third time through the order was worse than 84 percent of the 182. He also struggled against the shift, allowing a .656 OPS with the bases empty versus a .796 mark with runners on base. The latter number was worse than 76 percent of those same 182 pitchers. On top of those issues, he was also exploited by left-handed bats. Same-handed opponents managed just a .661 OPS off Greene, while lefties posted a .765 rate. Additionally, his K:BB ratio flourished at 51-to-11 against righties, but fell down to a 30-to-18 ratio against lefties. Of course, Greene is young and will have his first offseason as a major leaguer to make these adjustments, so it’s not a huge concern. On the other hand, the rest of the league also has time to adjust, and can use these struggles to their benefit. It’s something to keep an eye on early on.
What to Expect in 2015
During the past offseason, Greene was shipped off to Detroit in a deal that brought Didi Gregorius to New York. This will obviously be a big help for his penchant to give up hard-hit balls, as he’s moving from one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the game to a much more neutral one. He should be a lock for the bottom of Detroit’s rotation, slotting in behind David Price, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez. Playing time should not be an issue as long as he doesn’t blow up. Although the Tigers’ corner infielders aren’t the most agile players in the game, the ground ball pitcher will be throwing in front of a very formidable middle infield. Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler could be one of the better defensive double play combinations the league has to offer. In the end, it’s still not enough to make him a slam-dunk mixed league play, though. The rate stats aren’t likely to improve too much upon last season, and while the strikeout rate should stay solid, he hasn’t yet shown an ability to last through an entire MLB season. He’s an option as a late-round flier, but is better left to those in deeper leagues or AL-only leagues. There is some decent upside in his arm, though, so if he goes undrafted, he’s someone to monitor on waivers.
The Great Beyond
As long as he continues to perform in a similar fashion as 2014, Greene is in no danger of losing a rotation spot in Detroit any time soon. Price will be hitting the open market after this coming season, and Verlander will be venturing further into his decline. There also aren’t any stand-out prospects coming up soon to take a spot away from him. Considering he’s in his prime, if you feel comfortable with him in 2015, you should feel relatively comfortable with him beyond that as well. Or at least as comfortable as you can ever feel with a pitcher in long-term leagues.