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Viva El Birdos 2018 Cardinals Prospect Rankings: #22a Conner Greene

New prospect was acquired in the Randal Grichuk trade

Toronto Blue Jays continue Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE

#22a: Conner Greene, RHP

6’3”, 185 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 4 April 1995; Drafted Rd 7 2013 (Blue Jays)

Level(s) in 2017: New Hampshire (Blue Jays AA)

Notable Numbers: 132.2 IP, 15.1% K, 13.6% BB, 52.1% GB%, 0.47 HR/9

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Conner Greene throws hard. That’s basically the long and short of what he brings to the table, what makes him an intriguing arm talent. Even in an era when velocity has become commonplace and commodified, Greene has rare arm strength, and that alone is enough to make him noteworthy.

Which isn’t to say velocity is the only thing Greene offers; just that it’s the main thing. He’s shown good feel for an average or slightly better changeup in the past, while his curveball looked better in 2017 than it had before. He throws a slider as well, though it appears to have stagnated a bit. For my money, his high arm slot is a better fit for a curve anyway, so I’m not surprised that’s the breaking ball with more promise for him.

But in the end, it all comes back to velocity for Greene. He sits comfortably at 94-96 with his fastball, and can push it higher when he wants to. He’ll touch triple digits nearly every time out at least once, and sometimes multiple times within a start. The high arm slot gives him excellent plane on the pitch as well, similar to that of Michael Wacha, but Greene’s fastball is also a heavy, more naturally grounder-inducing pitch than that of Wacha, who has upped his ground ball rate the past few years largely due to increased use of his secondary pitches.

The problem with Greene, as should be apparent from the stat line posted above, is that he simply doesn’t miss many bats. For whatever reason, his fastball, as fast and as heavy as it is, is just hittable. Greene’s command has never been great, but as he’s moved up the ladder in pro ball the hitters have gotten more patient, and he’s seen both his walk rate and the number of unfavourable counts in which he finds himself climb. The unreliability of his secondary pitches doesn’t help matters, either, as he often struggles to locate anything but the fastball. For a pitcher capable of pushing 100, Greene simply doesn’t get the ball past that many hitters.

The good news is that while hitter tend to make a lot of contact against Conner Greene, they don’t necessarily make a lot of good contact. He generates lots of ground balls with that heavy fastball, and also, interestingly, a ton of infield fly balls. Minor league batted-ball data is nowhere near as reliable as it is in the majors, of course, but Greene induced 25.4% infield flys in 2016, and 28.8% in 2017. (Remember, infield fly balls are tracked as a percentage of all fly balls, not all batted balls.) So it appears that he is incredibly difficult to square up, but not all that hard to make contact against. Add a high walk rate to that ease of making contact and you have a pitcher with bad numbers, in spite of very little high-quality contact being made against him.

Personally, I think a big part of Greene’s issues is the simple fact he doesn’t repeat his delivery at all well. Watch the video I’ve posted below, and you can see even at regular speed how much he varies in his mechanics. His glove hand doesn’t do the same thing every time, much less his actual throwing hand, and his release point is noticeably different at times to the naked eye.

For my money, Greene is a reliever long term, though if he continues to develop his curveball I suppose there’s a chance he could turn into a stuff-first mid-rotation starter. I wouldn’t wait on that possibility, though, particularly in a system like the Cardinals’, with so many other options matriculating up through the pipeline. As a reliever, Greene could see his velocity tick up from 93-97 to something more like 95-99, and if he’s pitching closer to 97 consistently perhaps he misses more bats on speed alone. The curve is probably the more important pitch on which to focus as a reliever, rather than a change that generates weak contact but still few empty swings.

If he’s good, it’s going to look like: There’s something of both Joe Kelly and Nathan Eovaldi in Greene’s profile, in that all three pitchers are possessed of elite-level velocity, yet have never gotten the swings and misses such elite stuff would seem to predict. Both Kelly and Eovaldi have carved out very nice major league careers all the same, though, and there’s plenty of reason to hope Greene can do the same.

via MLB Prospect Portal: