The Cincinnati Reds on Monday took Hunter Greene with the second pick in the MLB draft, nabbing perhaps the most hyped prospect since Bryce Harper.
Greene is no ordinary prospect — a 17-year-old right-handed pitcher and shortstop who can also rake at the plate.
In his senior year in high school, Greene posted a 0.75 ERA while batting .328 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. This comes after a junior year in which he posted a 1.63 ERA while batting .419. Radar guns have already clocked him at 102 miles per hour on the mound and he has the tools to be an athletic, power-hitting infielder as well.
The expectations for Greene are considerable as he’s been tasked with no less than saving baseball.
In April, Sports Illustrated dubbed Greene, “The star baseball needs.” One MLB executive told SI’s Lee Jenkins of Greene, “This is exactly the kind of kid we desperately need.”
As ESPN’s Keith Law explained after the draft, Greene is uniquely situated to help baseball if he lives up to his considerable potential.
“He has been tabbed by a lot of people, he may be the future face of baseball, particularly because he’s African-American. And Major League Baseball has had a lot of trouble attracting young African-Americans to play the sport and to watch the sport as well. And really the fastest path to get the African-American community back interested in the sport again is to have more African-American stars on the field. This is a kid who’s got the skills, he’s got the athletic ability, he’s certainly got the personality and intelligence to do that.”
As Jenkins documented, Greene has the personality and charisma that is well suited to appeal to MLB fans.
“Greene does yoga with a private instructor three times a week. He dabbles in Korean. He wonders if he could ever play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ on his violin before taking the field. He listens to hip-hop, mainly Travis Scott, but he’s also kind of country: He owns a dozen Bass Pro Shop hats and casts into Castaic Lake. He spends free periods painting with Joseph Lee, his AP studio art teacher … He launched a sock drive this winter for the homeless in downtown Los Angeles, after reading an article about a shortage, then handed out 2,300 pairs on Skid Row. He has received four certificates of recognition from L.A.-area politicians for his community service efforts. ”
The only question about Greene is what position he’ll end up playing in the majors. As Jenkins notes, it’s not even a “dilemma,” which by definition, means choosing between two undesirable choices. Instead, Greene seems destined to live up to the hype wherever he plays, which as of now, is both positions — according to USA Today’s Mike Vorkunov. the Reds have agreed to give him the chance to play both, something rarely seen in pro baseball.
Many people believe, however, that Greene’s future is on the mound rather than in the field.
Greene even has a believer in MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
“If there was ever a young man who could live up to a Sports Illustrated cover at age 17, I think Hunter is that young man,” Manfred told Vorkunov.
In some ways, Greene is already a formed star and a blank slate, a 17-year-old with the athletic prowess to dominate and the personality to shine, but with a to-be-determined path on the field. Some think that experimenting with Greene’s two-way ability is worth a shot.
As one team executive told Jenkins, “I’m not sure what that would even look like. But I do think it’s worth having the conversation.”
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