Yeah, this is a bit early for my previews to start, but the Phillies are again at the back of the top 10 picks, which means there are a whole lot of potential players in play for their picks in the first 2 rounds. In 2017 the Phillies have the 8th overall pick.
Why am I starting with Hunter Greene, you may ask? Because he’s incredibly exciting both as a prospect and as a person. Go read Hudson Belinsky’s "Get To Know" article about Greene and try to remain unmoved and unimpressed with the kid. There’s a good chance Greene’s gone long before the 8th pick. He’s one of the most athletic players I can recall seeing in the draft in years. He’s the kind of guy Marti Wolever likely had fever dreams about. Greene could go #1 overall as a power Right Hander Pitcher who touches close to 100 MPH and has 3 possible Plus pitches. He could also go #1 overall as a slick-fielding Shortstop with potential Plus Power. He might be the American Shohei Otani.
So, you might be thinking I’m wasting my time covering this guy and yeah I probably am. But I cover guys I find fascinating and not just guys I think we can get and I find Greene insanely fascinating. Further, I don’t think it’s impossible Greene falls to 8. I have seen projections of Greene at #1 overall, but I saw the same for Daz Cameron, Carlos Rodon, AJ Puk and other guys who went substantially later. Greene could have a mediocre Senior season, he could injure something other than his Right Shoulder, the good crop of College players could all have stellar seasons, teams could prioritize positions (this is an unusually strong looking class of Catchers) or some combination of those reasons.
I will apologize in advance for what is bound to be weird flow in this piece since it’s like covering two players in one piece. I think it is slightly more like Greene’s future in on the Mound, so I’ll cover his Pitching last. so the first part of this preview is Hunter Greene, Shortstop.
Greene is a 6’4", 205 lb player from Stevenson Ranch (LA area), CA. He is a Right Handed hitter with a College commitment to UCLA. He can stick at Shortstop, but he also has experience playing Third Base, where he may well end up in the Majors (he’d be a very large Shortstop). His bat has potential to play anywhere. Being he could go #1 overall as a Pitcher I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by spending any time on the arm. He’s a fluid defender at Short with good footwork and a good first break on balls in play. Here’s video from Prospect Pipeline of Greene doing Fielding Drills during Team USA drills last year. In short, he has the skills to stick there and potentially be a star player Defensively.
Of course, while a 6'4" Defense first Shortstop might be a little unusual, a plain old defense first shortstop is pretty easily available much further down draft boards. Greene needs to hit to be a position player, so let's look at the bat. The video below, also Prospect Pipeline, features another minute of fielding at the start, including some work at Second Base (oh, the options with this kid. He's like a good Wilson Valdez), but the hitting starts at the 1:19 mark. It's a pretty quiet swing with a small leg kick, good timing and a plane that keeps it in the Strike Zone for a long time. Of course, the bat speed is also fantastic. It's hard to find any nits to pick here, but this is BP video and by all accounts Larry Greene, Jr. routinely launched moonshots in BP and Anthony Hewitt looked like a textbook hitter. Neither carried those swings over into games. So I'll have to go video hunting, but first, enjoy this.
So, I tracked down game clips of Greene hitting. This time courtesy of rkyosh007, which sound like deadly scrabble tiles. The leg kick and stride both look bigger, but the plane still seems pretty level and the bat speed holds. He also doesn't seem like a free swinger. His time to First in the video is average, but I really don't trust doing that from youtube videos, where there can be lag in the video feed or the video could be edited to run fast or slow. However there are scouting reports (including one by Eric Longenhagen with Fangraphs) noting times in the 4.5-4.6 second range (that's roughly a 30 on the 20-80 scale if you're the optimistic type, so he's not much of a threat on the bases). If there's a spot where you can say Greene has a weakness it's as a runner. As a hitter though he has all kinds of potential. He won 2 amatuer Home Run derbys (one in spacious Petco Park and one in Wrigley, where he reportedly hit a few clear out of the stadium). Greene does have some swing and miss and, like most High School hitters, it's tough to gauge Pitch recognition and project the bat.
I include the following video because it seems like the perfect way go from Hunter Greene hitter to the next section on Greene as a Pitcher. Check out the headline from the LA Times on this video: "Hunter Greene hits two home runs, strikes out 15". The kid has one many army potential here.
Greene is a 6’4", 205 lb player from Stevenson Ranch (LA area), CA. He is a Right Handed Pitcher with a College commitment to UCLA. Hmmm, I just got this weird sense of deja vu. Anyway, Hunter's fastest path to the Majors is as a Pitcher, where he has top of the rotation potential. I'll admit I sometimes seem to sleep in a hyperbolic chamber, but I saw someone make a Bob Gibson comp, so I feel like I'm about to be damn well understated in this write-up.
First the stuff: Bob Gibs....uh, I mean Hunter Greene throws a fastball that tops out at 98 mph, but typically sits 94-96 mph, his second best offering is a sometimes slurvy Curveball that he seems to have good feel for and adjusts the shape on a bit. His third pitch is his Changeup and, like every High Schooler I write about, his Changeup needs work. He seems to have some feel for it, but when you can throw heat the other kids simply can't catch up with along with a Curve that can make them look silly, would you ever throw another pitch-type? Neither would I, and like Greene we'd all end up with an underdeveloped Changeup. Reports seem positive that he can develop the Change into a potential 3rd plus pitch. Even if he gets it to average, he's got pretty special potential on the mound.
Greene's delivery looks pretty effortless and repeatable. The drawback he'll need to work on in the pros is that almost every scouting report notes his command as average. The reason for this is correctable: when he gets in some trouble he starts rushing his delivery, his stuff flattens out, his mechanics sometimes go pear shaped a bit and he misses his spots. Switching to the mound full time, combined with good coaching and experience should reduce the occurrence of the rushed mechanics. I'd also imagine facing guys who can send your mistakes to the next area code is also a good motivator for slowing down.
In the video below (Prospect Pipeline again) you can see a little bit of the mechanical issue. At the 0:55 mark Greene lands on a straight leg, leaving his release point a little higher and to the right of usual and the ball floats high and inside on him. The video overall has a good mix of Fastballs (nasty when he keeps them down), Curveballs (in the high 70's) and Changeups (in the 80's).
Now, if everything goes well this season for Greene and he refines his Command, he'll be long gone by the 8th pick. On the other hand if things go a little haywire or if he does suffer a non-shoulder injury, would the current Phillies leadership roll the dice on him? Especially with such a deep class? Hunter checks all of my prospect weak spots, even if he might lose a foot race to Ryan Howard. And I'm intrigued by the possibility of him doubling as a possible Pinch Hitter on off days (as the Giants have done on occasion with Mad Bum).