The Cincinnati Reds lost a Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer, after the 2020 season but may gain one of the most promising prospects in the minor leagues at some point in the 2021 season.
Four years after the Reds drafted Hunter Greene with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft and two years after he underwent Tommy John surgery, he’s closer than ever to making his big-league debut.
“I want to be there this season,” Greene said Sunday. “That’s solely my goal is to get there. That’s where my head’s been since I was drafted and especially this offseason, I’ve worked extremely hard on to put myself in the best position possible to succeed and to conquer that goal.”
Asked if Greene hopes to start this season in the big leagues, even if it’s in the bullpen, he said, “It would be great, but my sights are on starting, and I feel that I’ll be a power starter now and in the future.”
Greene, 21, ranks 71st on a MLB.com list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. The Reds have three other players on that list: right-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo (No. 59), the No. 7 overall pick in 2019; outfielder No. 86 Austin Hendrick, the 12th pick in 2020; and catcher Tyler Stephenson (No. 95), the 11th pick in 2015.
Stephenson, who made his big-league debut last season, is on the 40-man roster and is expected to be with the team on Opening Day. Hendrick will make his minor-league debut this season because the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled. Greene and Lodolo are among the 18 players on the Reds minor league spring training roster.
When Greene takes the mound this season, wherever he ends up, it will be his first official appearance since July 26, 2018, when he was with the Single-A Dayton Dragons. He did practice last season at the Reds’ alternate training site in Mason.
“It was awesome,” Green said, “just because there were a lot of guys that were home and didn’t have the opportunity to go out and play and be around a high level of guys. For me, it was nice to get my innings, but my biggest takeaway was learning more of the big-league life and the day-to-day work and the expectations. It was more of a learning process.”
Greene has the same velocity he had before the surgery. He spent last summer working on secondary pitches.
“I feel like my fastball will always be there,” Green said. “Obviously, I still need to throw it because if you don’t throw, you’ll lose it. But my biggest focus has been making sure I try and perfect my secondary pitches as best as I can.”
Reds pitchers and catchers held their first workout Thursday with position players joining spring training on Monday. Greene had a good early experience when he threw to veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart.
“It was great,” Greene said. “I had just come from field one, from long tossing, and I was coming over to start my pen. He pointed me out. He was like, ‘Hunt, let’s go; you’re with me.’ I love that. I was like putting my cleats on. I definitely wanted to throw to Tucker, but he beat me to the punch and he wanted me to pair up with him. It was great to get that feedback from him and to know that he wanted to one make that connection but also work together. It was pretty special knowing his history and the career he’s had so far.”
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