|Rocket Sports photo|
Righthander Conner Greene made his spring training MLB debut on Saturday, striking out 3 of the 4 batters he faced in a one-inning relief stint against the Phillies.
If there has been a constant in terms of player development and drafting during the reign for former GM Alex Anthopoulos, it has been that of the tall, lean, and athletic high school pitcher. Greene, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Daniel Norris, and Jon Harris are just a few of that type of pitcher acquired during the Anthopoulos era. Certainly, they were able to step outside of that box to sign a Roberto Osuna and draft a Marcus Stroman, because the organization values projection above all else.
When push has come to shove, however, the tall pitcher (who can change a batter's view of a pitch, possibly forcing him to lose the ability to track it thanks to its downward plane), who is lean (to better withstand the rigours of pitching 175-200 innings), and athletic (in order to consistently repeat his delivery and field his position) is what the Blue Jays coveted.
Greene fits that profile to a T. The Californian was drafted in the 7th round of 2013, and didn't make his full-season debut until last year - and what a debut it was, as Greene pitched well at 3 levels. Hitting his innings limit meant that he wasn't sent to the Arizona Fall League for some extra reps against elite competition.
In his inning of work, Greene did not face any legit MLB bats, but he worked well down in the zone, hitting 98 with his fastball at one point. He went up against Nick Williams, the Phillies' 4th-ranked prospect, as well as journeymen Emmanuel Burriss and J.P. Arencibia, and non-prospect Ryan Jackson. Greene walked Arencibia, and showed that his changeup may still need some refining, as the former Jay tomahawked one into the left field stands. That was the only loud contact Greene gave up though, which is more in keeping with his projection as a ground ball machine. Striking out the side was a bit out of character - even though Greene struggles with his command from time to time, he's often only a pitch away from getting an inning-ending double play ball.
I know that I can be rough on Blue Jays TV analyst Buck Martinez, who often appears to be spouting off whatever research his producers gave him, but he offered some good insights into Greene during the broadcast. Martinez mentioned how Greene played all nine positions on his high school team, and described his athleticism as he watched Greene kick a soccer ball around before the game with Jose Bautista. As a former Catcher, Buck can probably identify a good pitching prospect as well as anyone, and it was obvious that he sees one in Greene.
How about some GIFs of Greene's performance?
His strikeout of Williams:
A.J. Jimenez frames a strike beautifully against Arencibia:
The change that Arencibia was early on:
Greene finished his season at New Hampshire, and with the veteran starting rotation that has been assembled at Buffalo, it's likely he returns to New England to begin this season. His development last year was no doubt accelerated by the trading spree Anthopoulos went on last July, but he still may have finished up at AA given his success in High A.
That mid-rotation starter ceiling is looking more and more likely, although Greene still has a few things to work on, namely command of his secondaries like that change. Against more discerning MLB hitters, that change he left out over the plate against Arencibia might have been hit to Kissimmee.