Yankees righty Shane Greene isn't unique just because he was a 15th round pick out of junior college that just made the big leagues; that's happened many times before. His story is a little more unique than you might guess after a cursory look at his Baseball Reference page.
Yankees Florida area scout Jeff Deardorff knew Greene as early as age 9, as he lived near the Greene family in Clermont, FL. Greene didn't draw much if any attention from scouts out of high school and went to Daytona State JC. After a handful of innings his freshman year, his elbow popped and he got Tommy John surgery; nothing out of the ordinary yet.
When Deardorff went hunting with Greene and his father the next winter, Greene told the scout that his rehab was going well and he wanted Deardorff to come see him pitch when he was healthy. The scout remembers thinking the pitcher had a great 6'4 pitcher's frame, but it was still a long shot to go from unknown to draft prospect right after surgery.
Deardorff started getting calls from Greene's father later in the spring, encouraging him to come scout Shane. He hadn't pitched in a game all spring and was stashed on Daytona State's JV roster as he only got healthy enough to throw bullpens after the season had already ended. The frequency of the calls intensified in the weeks before the draft and Deardorff set up a bullpen in Clermont to see what Greene had.
Greene's friend caught the pen and the catcher's 10-year-old sister held Deardorff's gun behind the plate, while the scout stood by the mound to watch Greene's mechanics. Deardorff remembers that Greene's arm was much more fluid than he expected and he shouted to the little girl, "how much?" and she replied, "92."
The scout hustled behind the plate, assuming that even with the quick arm that the reading wasn't accurate, but Greene threw his hard sinker even a few ticks harder and mixed in a few sliders as well. Deardorff called Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to ask about adding Greene to the club's pre-draft workout in Tampa the next week. Deardorff remembers his boss sounding more than a little surprised about where this latest prospect had popped up, but made a spot for him at the workout.
Greene showed more of the same at the workout and the Yankees brass were shocked this kind of arm was anonymous to the scouting community. As it turned out, the only other scout aware of Greene before the draft was legendary Angels scout Tom Kotchman (now with the Red Sox), who has signed scores of big leaguers and whose son is former big league 1B Casey Kotchman. Greene coming to Clermont to throw a bullpen for Deardorff was far enough down the road from his school that Kotchman missed Greene's bullpen that he was planning to see that day. The other 28 teams didn't even know Greene's name.
Come draft day, the Yankees took Greene in the 15th round of the 2009 MLB Draft (Deardorff: "my phone blew up with scouts killing me for not telling them about this guy") and signed him less than a week later for a $100,000 bonus. Why that much money for a kid with no profile off of only seeing him throw two bullpens? The Yankees didn't want to get cute and lose Greene to higher bonus demands, as major colleges were quickly investigating the unknown Juco kid that got drafted so high.
There were a lot of adjustments to be made for Greene after signing, and the above video is when he pitched for Tampa of the High-A Florida State League in 2012 and shows an awkward finish to his delivery. I scouted him a few times that year and saw a future big league reliever, if he could clean up the delivery: a low-90's sinker that hit 95 mph and held it's velocity late into games with an above average slider, but a fringy changeup and below average command. One-time Yankees pitching coordinator Gil Patterson rejoined the club for the 2013 season after a stint with Oakland and helped Greene make more adjustments, such as cleaning up that finish.
In big league spring training this year, Greene was turning heads of high-level scouts, as he was sitting 93-96 with heavy sink, an above-average 88-91 mph cutter and a hard changeup at 85-88 with enough command to get big leaguers out. He was called up to the big league team yesterday to work out of the bullpen for the Bombers.
What's the takeaway from this story for Deardorff? "Damon has always been known for trusting his scouts and letting us go with our gut in the right situation. He let me bring a guy to the pre-draft workout that I had only seen throw one bullpen and signed the guy having only seen him throw that other bullpen because he quickly evaluated the talent and trusted his scouts. You can't ask for more as an area scout."
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