Twins MLB Draft Preview: Hunter Greene, SP/SS
Image courtesy of Sports IllustratedWho Is He?
We have been following Greene for a long time here on Twins Daily. Ever since the 2016 season ended and Minnesota officially claimed the top pick in this June's draft, he has fronted the list of candidates to become their selection. Many months later, he remains in the high esteem of scouts and analysts. Baseball America has him at the top of their board. So does MLB.com.
The reasons are evident. As a pitcher, Greene has the makings of a generational stud. His fastball has been clocked at triple digits many times, and he routinely maintains high-90s velocity deep into games. What's more, he brings this heat with an easy motion that doesn't raise alarms about mechanical issues down the line.
In his prep career with Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA, Greene posted a 1.62 ERA over 121 innings. As a senior he struck out 41 percent of the batters he faced. He belongs in the conversation for best high school right-hander ever.
And then there is the other side of his game. Greene is also a smooth defensive shortstop, one who obviously has the arm to make every throw. He swings hard and generates a ton of power. There's a general belief that he could easily be an all-star as a position player, even if he doesn't stick at short. However, in that capacity Greene is more first-round pick material than first pick material.
Here are some highlights via LA Daily News from his 2017 debut for Notre Dame, in which he blew several hitters away from the hill and ripped a grand slam at the plate:
Greene has a commitment to UCLA but it's highly unlikely he'll honor it, unless things go awry and he falls out of the top three.
Why The Twins Will Pick Him
I mean, how do you pass this up? The Twins could desperately use an elite pitching prospect in their pipeline, and Greene has a chance to become THE elite pitching prospect very quickly. If he maintains his purported ability to work in the upper 90s with good command throughout entire starts, and he develops his secondary offerings at all, he can transform into an MLB rotation-fronter in fairly short order.
You miss on that, and go with a safer collegiate option who proves to be merely good (or not even), and it's a mistake that haunts for many years to come. These are the stakes for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, just nine months into the job.
They recognize this, and their scouts have been all over Greene every step of the way. He has been analyzed from every angle, by numerous sets of eyes. If the Twins, through their rigorous evaluations, agree with the widely held opinion that Greene is essentially a can't-miss – particularly with the fallback as a talented position player should pitching not work out – then they will take him.
Why The Twins Will Not Pick Him
Unless we're getting smokescreens, it would appear the Twins are in fact not reaching that conclusion.
In mid-May, USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Twins were "leaning toward passing on" Greene. Ten days later, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported this more firmly, "barring a late change." If true, it's not clear what would happen to reverse their mindset at this stage, other than someone else on the board getting hurt.
Here's the thing: Greene is really, really risky. And with the aforementioned stakes at play, it may just be too much risk to handle at this pick. No right-handed prep pitcher has ever gone first overall, and there is a reason for it: they are really difficult to project from this stage.
Kohl Stewart was considered the best high school hurler in the nation when the Twins took him fourth overall in 2013. His stuff never developed enough to dominate in the pros, however, and four years later he's completely off the prospect radar.
The following year, Tyler Kolek – a Texas HS righty who, like Greene, was known for his eye-popping velocity as a teen – went second overall to Miami. He required Tommy John surgery at the age of 20, and is still now rehabbing. When he has pitched, the numbers haven't been good.
Greene is on a higher plane than either, to be sure, but the cautionary tales still resonate. And like any high school player, he has question marks. Opinions differ on whether his secondary pitches are up to par. Commanding the zone at his level of competition is vastly different from doing so against professional hitters. And while he is well built physically, with relatively sound mechanics, you cannot help but wonder how throwing hundreds of 95-plus MPH pitches at such a young age is cumulatively affecting his arm.
The Twins, and other organizations, haven't seen that arm in action since mid-April, when Greene was shut down for precautionary reasons. There's simply a lot more data available on guys like Kyle Wright and Brendan McKay. This new front office likes data.
Then again, everyone likes triple-digit heat and seemingly endless potential. Will Greene's uniquely high ceiling rule out? Or have the Twins seen enough in their extensive examinations to scare them away?
Reports suggest the latter, but we shall see how it plays out on Monday.
Make sure to check out Jeremy Nygaard's 10-round Twins mock draft. He's been known to get a few right in the past.
Previous Draft Profiles:
Brendan McKay, SP/1B by Cody Christie
Royce Lewis, SS/OF by Nick Nelson
Pavin Smith, 1B by Tom Froemming
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