On April 24, 2014, Shane Greene made his Major League debut against the Boston Red Sox. It was an inauspicious introduction to the bigs, to say the least, as Greene would retire only one of the five batters that he faced, thanks to poor command and porous defense. When the dust had settled (after Adam Warren allowed two inherited runners to score), Greene had produced the following line: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K. Derek Jeter and Brian McCann welcomed him to the show by botching a routine play and allowing a passed ball, respectively – but Greene was just as bad as those gruesome numbers suggest. And with that, he was sent back to the RailRiders.
Drafted in the 15th round of the 2009 draft, Greene has long been regarded as a sleeper by many Yankees bloggers. Clocking in at 6’4″ and around 200 pounds, he has the build of a prototypical right-handed power pitcher, with a 92 to 94 MPH fastball and mid-80s slider to back it up. He is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher (though he does throw a change-up and the occasional two-seamer), which rarely portends success in the rotation – but he excelled in High-A and Double-A in 2013, posting a 3.38 ERA, 1.7 BB/9, and 8.0 K/9 over 154.1 IP, and maintaining a nearly two-to-one groundball to flyball ratio. He also looked dominant at times in Spring Training, where he struck out 10 and walked only 1 in 7.2 IP (though, he did allow eight hits and four earned runs over those innings). While his fate likely lies in the bullpen, it makes sense to allow someone like Greene to pitch himself out of a starting gig – and here we are.
This season, Greene has yet to consistently show the form that encouraged so many heading into this season. He currently sports a 4.61 ERA in 66.1 Triple-A innings, and his strikeout (7.7 K/9) and walk (3.5 BB/9) numbers have regressed. Greene has looked better over his last two starts (which likely factored into his promotion and spot start), going 13 scoreless innings, and allowing only six hits in doing so. Having watched his last two starts on MiLB.tv, however, I do feel that his eleven strikeouts to five walks over those innings are more telling of his performance than the zeroes in the runs column.
Despite the gaudy walk numbers of his 2013 season, Greene has long been a pitcher that struggles with command and control, and we are seeing some of that this year. He tends to rack up high pitch counts as a result (he’s averaging nearly 20 pitcher per inning at Triple-A), and surrenders hard contact when he is able to get his slider over the plate. Generally speaking, Greene has always be susceptible to hard contact. And while absurdly high walk rates do seem to be a thing of the past, Greene is still seeking to strike a balance between throwing strikes, and throwing quality strikes – oftentimes the hurdle that makes or breaks a starting pitcher.
Overall, Greene does have the potential to be a contributing member of a Major League pitching staff – he keeps the ball on the ground, misses bats, and has shown the ability to limit walks. As he has advanced up the chain, he has reminded me more and more of Adam Warren, as a pitcher whose flaws would be mitigated in the bullpen, as he could scuttle his show-me pitches, and focus on his promising fastball/slider combo (though, Warren’s change-up is far, far better). And going forward, that seems to be the role for which he is best-suited.
For now, though, Greene need only demonstrate that he can give the Yankees some competent innings as the need arises – and the bar has not been set terribly high.