2015 Player Previews: RHP Shane Greene

The Tigers needed to fill a couple spots in the rotation this off-season, and one of the slots they plan to fill with youngster Shane Greene, who was acquired from the Yankees. Greene is a big kid with impressive stuff, but things didn't come together for him until 2014, when he put together a good half-season at the big league level. Will Greene have sustained success at the MLB level?

2014 In Review – Shane Greene

2014 Stats
Detroit 78.2 15 5-4 1.1 3.40 3.73 3.78 .330 9.3 3.3 50% 12.7%

Greene split his 2014 season between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the big leagues in New York, starting in Triple-A before a brief call-up, and then ultimately ending up in the Yankees’ rotation at the beginning of July, going the rest of the season as a member of the group.

Despite his impressive frame and repertoire, Greene had his share of drawbacks entering the 2014 – most notably, persistent control issues that kept his walk rates very high, and frequently put him behind in the count, forcing him to throw balls over the plate that were all too often teed off on. PinstripesPlus, the Scout.com Yankees affiliate, ranked Greene 20th in the system entering 2014. But it was always emphasized that the potential was there.

Greene put that potential into action with the Yankees in the summer, and performed well. He allowed three runs or less in 11 of his 14 starts, while keeping his walk rates in check and striking out more than a batter per inning. He was a bit of a revelation for the Yankees, as he wasn't expected to be able to step into the rotation and be THAT good, given his track record.

TigsTown senior analyst Neil Weinberg did a comprehensive look at Greene’s 2014 season shortly after being acquired, which you can read here: A Look at Shane Greene Statistically.

2015 Player Projections

2014 Advanced Projections
Service G IP WAR ERA FIP BAbip K/9 BB/9
ZiPS 29 140.2 1.0 4.48 4.11 .326 7.4 3.4
Steamer 23 129.0 0.7 4.42 4.26 .296 6.7 3.2

Unfortunately for the Tigers, neither projection system is particularly optimistic about Greene’s future this year, which is not terribly surprising given Greene’s limited big league track record of success and minor league struggles.

Both systems forecast Greene to be worth only about one win over the course of the season, not quite the 1.1 WAR he was worth in 2014 in a little under half of a season. But they’re also using his minor league history, in which he has a career 4.39 ERA and walk rate of 3.6 batters per nine. Minor league performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance, but it’s unusual for a player to suddenly make a leap at the big league level. Not that it can’t happen, guys do get better, it’s just not common.

So, the projections say that Greene will be what amounts to a decent fifth starter, able to keep his rotation spot with an ERA in the mid-4’s, but they see his strikeout numbers dropping without any sort of drop in his walk rate.

The TigsTown Take

When you watch Greene pitch, his stuff is without a doubt impressive. And his minor league struggles can be explained away based on growth and evolution, especially for a guy that has used so many different pitches over the course of his career (he’s used a half dozen at times, a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a changeup, a slider, a cutter and a curveball). Some guys take longer to develop, some need time to find the right mix.

So, Greene’s 2014 summer could be real, and if it is, the Tigers got a bargain, acquiring what will amount to a three win pitcher for Robbie Ray, who could still be a starter in the future but is probably more of a back-end rotation guy, and Domingo Leyba, a solid middle infield prospect, but the Tigers had quite a few of them.

Did Dombrowski fleece a couple of fellow GM’s and find a budding star in Greene? It’s certainly possible, as he’s absolutely done it before. And Greene could be the latest – he appears to have the stuff, and there was nothing in his 2014 performance to indicate it was an aberration. I think he’s absolutely going to be a capable back of the rotation starter – I’m just not yet ready to get on board with much more than – at least not yet.

2015 Projections come from two different sources; ZiPS, and Steamer, both publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, and Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers.

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