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Detroit Tigers Roundtable: Buck Farmer or Shane Greene to the Bullpen?

Looking at a pair of young pitchers in this week's roundtable, we pose this question: If you had to choose one pitcher to start and one to pitch in relief among Buck Farmer and Shane Greene, who would you have start, and who would you put in the bullpen, and why?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor

To me, this is a really intriguing question (and just because I'm the one that came up with it), but because it takes so many variables into account - overall ability, likelihood of improvement in a focused role, skill-set aligned with a task, ability to stay healthy, as well as mindset. For Greene, if he could stay healthy, and be able to more consistently mix in pitches to be effective against left-handed hitters, could emerge as a middle of the rotation type starter. But those are two pretty big "if's", and Greene hasn't shown the ability to do either for the Tigers, yet. Farmer meanwhile has yet to be good at any point in time as a starter at the MLB level (.444 wOBA against), and has been inconsistent when pitching in relief (.359 wOBA against, but a 2.84 ERA so far in 2016). If you were looking to put each pitcher in the role that they'd potentially be most valuable in, slotting Greene in the rotation and Farmer in the bullpen makes the most logical sense. But, Farmer's ceiling in either role is likely limited, and Greene may never be able to stay healthy trying to pitch 200 innings in a season. On the other hand, Greene's sinker/cutter combo against right-handers could be deadly in late innings, and introducing his changeup to that mix against lefties could allow him to be more effective when he doesn't have to cycle through the lineup multiple times, where he quickly loses effectiveness - the first time through the order, batters post a .733 OPS against him. The second time, it increases nearly 40 points to .769 (and his K:BB ratio falls from 3:1 to 2:1), and the third time around, he gets hammered to the tune of a .984 OPS. So while conventional wisdom might say to leave Greene in the rotation and hope Farmer can play up in the bullpen... I'd push Greene to the bullpen and bet he could excel as a late-inning, high-leverage reliever.

 

Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting

This is actually a pretty tough question because of Greene's inability to stay healthy. Without that complication, Greene would be the obvious choice to stick in the rotation. Even with the durability concerns, I still go with Greene as a starter long term because of the higher grades his pitches earn, his ability to throw strikes, and what he has shown in terms of an ability to work through the lineup multiple times. Farmer lacks the impact stuff to stay in the rotation and his command makes it even more difficult for him to fill that role. I believe working Farmer in the bullpen allows his fastball to play up a tick and masks some of his command issues, giving him a viable big league role as a middle reliever. Neither pitcher is perfect and in reality, both could end up in the bullpen long term, but at this point in time, I'm sticking with Greene as a starter to maximize the potential upside.

 

Chris Brown, Staff Writer

This choice isn't terrible difficult for me. Shane Greene certainly hasn't been what the Tigers hoped they were getting when they traded for him, though injuries have made it pretty hard to determine his true talent level. That said, he has shown flashes of being a legitimate major-league starting pitcher in Detroit, and he looked solid when he was starting for the Yankees. We simply can't say that about Farmer, who in seven career starts has an ERA of 10.09, and has only averaged 4 1/3 innings per outing. Greene is the better pitcher overall, so he would probably also be the better option in the bullpen, but I do think Farmer has a chance to be a solid reliever. Neither pitcher is particularly effective against left-handed hitters, but Farmer's changeup has shown signs of being an above-average pitch for him, and when paired with his average fastball and breaking ball, he could be the sort of dependable middle reliever who goes through the opposing order one time and keeps his team in the game through the 5th and 6th innings.

 

 James Chipman, Senior Lakeland Correspondent

I'm not very high on Farmer, so this is an easy one for me. Farmer has an average fastball, slider combo and lacks a serviceable third option in his arsenal; therefore he's a reliever, and one with limited upside at that. Greene on the other hand, despite his battles with staying consistent and healthy, has flashed the ability to be a useful back of the rotation starter.

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