To start the 2023 MLB season, young outfielder, Riley Greene, has really struggled from the plate. As of April 30th, the former 5th overall pick is hitting .235 with two home runs and a .630 OPS. Greene had a similar rookie season last year, with 5 home runs and a .682 OPS in his 93 games with the Tigers. Although Greene has a long, aggressive swing, the power has not been there. The ball has just not found Greene’s barrel as of late, and it must be frustrating for him and the organization.
Look, the kid was just able to order a beer last year, as he is only 22 years old. However, being a former high draft selection to a team that is PRAYING for just one shining light on their roster, the struggles have become worrisome for the organization, and the fans.
Greene’s Strikeout Problem
One glaring issue with Riley Greene has been the punch-outs. Greene is in the bottom 3% of the league with a 35.9% strikeout rate to start the season and is tied for the third most strikeouts in the American League. Greene has found himself in the two-hole in the Tigers’ order for a majority of the season, and it’s important he puts the ball in play to make something happen, especially in a lineup that struggles to get runners on base.
Strikeouts aren’t abnormal for young hitters, but it has gone to the extreme with Riley Greene.
Here are the K rates of other 22-year-old hitters in the league, compared to Greene’s 35.9%:
Julio Rodriguez (OF, SEA) – 23.3%
Bobby Witt Jr. (IF, KC) – 18.8%
Wander Franco (SS, TB) – 15.3%
Nolan Gorman (2B, STL) – 25.6%
CJ Abrams (SS, WSH) – 22.1%
Corbin Carroll (OF, ARI) – 23.1%
We would be having a different conversation if Greene was striking out but hitting for power, as that has become the norm in the league, but he has racked up only 31 extra base hits in his career in 461 AB’s, with only a .358 slugging percentage. If Greene continues to be an everyday player for the Tigers, he is on pace for 15 home runs, and a whopping 255 strikeouts. Yikes.
Can His Glove Keep Him in the Lineup?
Although Greene has really struggled at the plate, we have seen him make numerous web-games roaming center field. The advanced metrics on Greene defensively are not impressive, with a -1 outs above average, but watching him play, he looks like a veteran as an outfielder. He makes great plays in the gap, covers a lot of ground, and had nine fantastic diving catches last year.
Even if the offense doesn’t come around, we will most likely continue to see Greene on the lineup card for the foreseeable future. An outfielder with this good of a glove doesn’t come around often. It’s very important to have a guy like Greene taking away hits, especially when his team’s offense doesn’t get many hits of their own.
Only Time Will Tell with Riley Greene: Skipper Speaks on His Struggles
Again, Riley Greene is only 22 years old, with many years left to develop and adapt to the MLB. Of course we all want to see the young guys like Greene and Torkelson produce offensively immediately, but with a clubhouse full of young guys, patience is key. In his time in the minors, Greene was hitting for power and average, as he hit .291 with a .855 OPS in his time in the farm system. So, we know the ability is there, we just need to wait and let Greene come into his own.
Manager A.J. Hinch weighed in on Greene’s struggles and understands the adjustment to major league pitching can be difficult for most young hitters. “It’s just a youthful approach to learning that this isn’t an easy level. They’re not going to just lay the ball where he likes it. They are pitching him pretty tough,” Hinch said. Hinch is a manager that played the game and coached some young players that turned out to be great hitters in the league. Having a manager like that alongside Greene gives me the upmost that he has the best recourses to reach his full potential as a ballplayer.
Greene got the night off in game two of the Milwaukee series but replaced Eric Haase in the 8th inning to play center field. Greene went 0-1 with a groundout in the Tigers win.
Article written by Woodward Sports guest writer, Caleb Czarnik
Photo Credit: © Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
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