The Blue Jays did have a gaping hole in their Outfield which was nicely patched by the acquisition of Randal Grichuk from St Louis on Friday.
In order to obtain Grichuk, who was likely deemed surplus by the Cards after they had acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, the Jays gave up journeyman reliever Dominic Leone, who put together a fine 2017, and promising yet enigmatic prospect Conner Greene.
Greene had a junior college commitment lined up in his senior year of high school, which the Blue Jays talked him out of after selecting him in the 7th round in 2013. Greene fit the draft preferences of Alex Anthopoulos and Blake Parker to a “T”: long, lean, and athletic, with plenty of room for projection, which in Greene’s case meant added velo.
Greene had to repeat the GCL in his second pro season, but he quickly made up for lost time in 2015, advancing three levels, and reaching AA in August. Sent back to High A work on his command issues in 2016, Greene appeared set for take off in 2017.
But despite lighting up radar guns across the Eastern League, it was a failure to launch season for the Right Hander. Still, he showed enough promise for the Blue Jays to protect him from the Rule 5 draft by placing him on the 40-man roster in November.
When you evaluate prospects, you are limited sometimes by what you can’t see. In person or online, you can get a feel for a Pitcher’s command, which pitches are working, and which ones aren’t (note to MiLB play-by-play guys, who are the unsung heroes of the minors – could you please toss in some radar readings once in a while? Even if the stadium gun isn’t accurate, it gives those of us watching online an idea of the separation between pitches, and if a Pitcher loses velo as he turns a lineup over). What you can’t see is how he makes adjustments, how he responds to mechanics changes suggested by coaches, and how hard he works – in other words, his make up.
The quantitative measures of Greene’s performance are well-known – a fastball that sits 94-97 and topped 100 multiple times this year. It’s a pitch with some good sink when Greene kept it down in the zone, but it’s also a pitch without a lot of movement when he left it up, and EL hitters hit him fairly hard for a guy with his velocity.
Greene walked 13% of the hitters he faced. Concentration may have been an issue, as he surrendered a 2.72 WHIP to lead off hitters – Greene often found himself pitching out of the stretch. Few Pitchers are effective when they fall behind in the count, and Greene was no exception – hitters averaged .357 against him when they were ahead.
His curve was probably his best secondary last year, but scouts were apparently enthused for the potential for his change because of his arm speed.
Both Greene and Sean Reid-Foley had seasons that fell short of expectations, but SRF appeared to straighten out his command issues as the season wore on. The question for St Louis now is do they continue to let Greene continue try to develop his secondaries as a starter, or after five minor league seasons, is it time to shorten his repertoire and put him in a relief role, where his velo may play up a tick higher.
With Reid-Foley, Ryan Borucki, Thomas Pannone, and T.J. Zeuch and Nate Pearson behind them, the Blue Jays have quite a bit of starting depth in the minors. Apparently, they felt that they were deep enough to part with Greene.