Hunter Greene had a roller coaster of a 2018 season. He started quite slow out of the gate during a brutally cold month of April, allowing opponents to tag him for a 1.245 OPS during his first 5 games, in which he was shelled for 2 dingers and 15 ER in just 9.2 IP. His next 10 games, however, began to reveal his incredible upside, as the still 18 year old posted a 2.31 ERA over 50.2 IP, holding opponents to just a .612 OPS while logging a stellar 59/9 K/BB.
That, paired with his lofty status as a former #2 overall pick, landed him in MLB’s Futures Game during All Star weekend, where he wowed everyone with his 103 mph fastball. Unfortunately, that pretty well served as the last real highlight of Greene’s 2018, as a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow effectively ended his season in July.
Still, reports are that he is back to throwing baseballs again, which is an incredible positive for both him and the Cincinnati Reds. And despite his injury scare and slow start, he still managed to again crack MLB.com’s list of the Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball, which was released today. Checking in this year at #10 - last year, he was at #8 - Greene’s electric 80 grade fastball also received top billing (along with currently injured Chicago White Sox fireballer Michael Kopech), which is hardly surprising given its velocity and the ease with which he throws it.
MLB.com is releasing their Top 10 by-position prospect rankings all this week and next, so be sure to check back in to see where the other highly touted Reds farmhands check in.
In other news, The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans has an excellent piece on another Reds prospect who should see his name featured prominently on MLB.com’s lists - Taylor Trammell, who more and more looks the part of a future cornerstone in the Cincinnati OF. Rosecrans helps trace Trammell’s path from conditional 1st round pick (who nearly chose college football over baseball), to hyped prospect, to a player in whom the Reds want desperately to see become a leader.
Speaking of players who were torn between football and baseball, the recent decision by Oklahoma quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner) Kyler Murray to enter the NFL Draft brought about quite the stir, considering baseball has pretty well tied their hands behind their own back when it comes to giving teams the financial wherewithal to incentivize their top prospects to choose baseball over other sports. There was even talk of the Oakland A’s inking Murray to an extension and placing him on their 40-man roster already, something that comes quite close to breaking rules agreed upon in the most recent CBA. MLB.com’s Jane Lee chronicled the idea, including this important mention:
Such a contract with the Athletics would offer Murray additional money (and a spot on Oakland’s 40-man roster) but would give him four Minor League option years rather than the usual three, because MLB rules grant a fourth option for players expending their third option year before completing five Minor League seasons. Under this scenario, Murray would run out of options after the 2022 season.
To tie this back to the Reds, that distinction of a potential fourth option year was relevant this time last season regarding Amir Garrett, whose time spent playing college basketball effectively limited his minor league experience despite his early presence on the Reds 40-man roster, and he earned a fourth option year for the 2018 season. That clause will serve to help the Reds this upcoming season with another lefty, too - Brandon Finnegan, who should used up his third option last year prior to finishing his fifth pro season. Finnegan obviously fizzled out in a major way in 2018 while trying to return from a pair of major shoulder injuries, and the Reds are fortunate that they’ll have another year in 2019 to figure out exactly what they’ve got in the former rotation lock. Maybe it’ll be a bullpen role from day one, maybe he’ll open as a starter in AAA Louisville, or maybe something else entirely will play out, but at least the Reds have a bit more time to let that play out.
Elsewhere, Fancred’s Jon Heyman relayed that the New York Yankees have ramped up trying to trade pitcher Sonny Gray now that C.C. Sabathia has resumed throwing, with the Reds still in the mix for the former Oakland ace. His ties to current Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson and catcher Curt Casali from the trio’s days at Vanderbilt (GO DORES) have been plenty well mentioned, but as a 1-year rental before he reaches free agency it’s debatable exactly how well he’d fit in a Cincinnati rotation that already has similar rentals in Tanner Roark and Alex Wood.
Finally, friend of the blog-o Doug Gray explored the idea of the Reds trying to extend top prospect Nick Senzel right meow, and it’s a concept that’s certainly a juicy one. It’s certainly an extremely rare thing to see in baseball - Evan Longoria and current Phillie Scott Kingery are among the few notable cases - but is one the Reds have surely at least explored given Senzel’s talent, proximity to the big leagues, and persistent payroll crunches.