Blue Jays, red birds, Conner Greene. The 22-year-old righty was the lone prospect involved in a trade Friday evening that sent power-hitting OF Randal Grichuk from St. Louis to Toronto in exchange for Greene and reliever Dominic Leone.
Greene is coming off a maddening statistical season at Double-A New Hampshire, where he accumulated a 5.29 ERA in 132.2 innings. He experienced some success till the beginning of summer, entering July with a 3.23 ERA despite erratic command, but started getting shelled as the season continued. Greene has a plus-plus fastball that sits 94-97 and will touch 99. The pitch has heavy sink and arm-side movement, as well as notable downhill angle to the plate — a result, that, of Greene’s size, relatively upright delivery, and high three-quarters arm slot. It’s Greene’s best pitch and he uses it heavily, perhaps too frequently, as his strikeout totals are not commensurate with his quality of stuff.
The curveball (which was bad last fall) has taken a huge step forward and is now Greene’s best secondary pitch. It has traditional power curveball shape, bite, and depth. It projects to a 55 on the scouting scale. Greene’s changeup is inconsistent and a bit easy to identify out of his hand, as Greene is prone to drop his arm slot when he throws it. Due to his loose, fluid arm action and incredible arm speed, though, some scouts project quite heavily on the changeup. It pretty conservatively projects to average and has more upside than that. There’s a chance Greene develops two above-average secondaries to pair with his plus-plus fastball, but no measure of his ability to miss bats indicates anything remotely close to that.
Greene struggles to repeat his release point and has 30-grade control. He walked 13% of hitters he faced in 2017 and 83 total hitters in his 132.2 innings. Unless Greene’s ability to locate greatly improves, he’ll wind up in the bullpen. It makes sense to continue developing him as a starter on the off chance that he develops 45 or better command and simply as a way to get him more reps than he’d get out of the bullpen, but the Cardinals were quick to move Sandy Alcantara to the bullpen last year and seemed inclined to keep him there. They’re thought, by other clubs, to be considering pulling the bullpen ripcord on either or both of Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley. Greene would seem to fall into that bucket of still-raw, upper-level arms. He has a chance to pitch as a mid-rotation starter if the command comes, but he’s more likely to be a hard-throwing, above-average bullpen arm. He’s a 45 Future Value prospect.
Kiley McDaniel contributed to the scouting notes on Conner Greene.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.