There was some movement in this pretty quiet offseason on Friday. In case you missed it the Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals swapped a few players. Randal Grichuk is now going to roam the Blue Jays’ outfield, while two pitchers head to St. Louis.
One is a rather intriguing prospect.
Dominic Leone is the well-traveled, 26-year-old, right-handed reliever. He has been up and down since 2014, with the Cardinals now his fourth big league stop. Last season in Toronto was the best of his career as he went 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in a career-high 65 appearances. He struck out 81 in 70.1 innings pitched, while walking a pretty decent 2.9-per-nine.
Leone is a good pickup. Bullpen pieces are seemingly going at a premium these days, so for the Cardinals to get an experienced piece is valuable. Per Baseball America, “Leone averages 95 mph on his fastball and backs it up with a swing-and-miss 88-90 mph cutter, a power arsenal that has made him effective in late, high-leverage situations”.
The other pickup was Conner Greene.
Greene has lost some of his luster because of serious command issues, but when he’s on, his stuff is worth noting. He was one of Minor League Ball’s “3 Blue Jays Prospects to Know” (which now needs to be updated, thanks guys) back in October. Much of what was said then, still holds true.
Simply put, Greene has been his own worst enemy, and it has come from his inconsistency in command. His fastball hits triple-digits, his breaking balls — when controlled — have nice movement, and he incorporates a change that his 20 to 25 mph slower than his fastball that just confounds hitters. He’s also an extreme ground ball pitcher (52 percent) so he’s not getting burned by the long ball. No, his 83 walks in 132.2 innings pitched tell the tale.
I got to see Greene on his home turf in New Hampshire last July during the Eastern League All Star Classic. He was on that night, lighting up the radar gun so many times one esteemed scout turned to me and said, “did that really hit 100 again?”
Greene blew a 100-mph fastball by Francisco Mejia to end the third inning. He came back out in the fourth, and allowed a lead-off single to Detroit Tigers prospect Christin Stewart. He then unloaded the heat once again, striking out the next three batters. He froze Cleveland Indians prospect Yu-Cheng Chang on a 79 mile-per-hour breaking ball to end the fourth.
Greene’s final line? He tossed two innings, allowed two hits, struck out four and walked none. His heat ooo-ed and aah-ed the crowd. It was the stuff the Blue Jays have known Greene is capable of, and he was able to flash it on his biggest stage of the season.
Here’s the deal with Greene. He’s 22 and a five-year minor league vet, but still seems raw. He has an electric fastball, but it doesn’t have extraordinary movement, so if you wait on it, its hittable. That curve drops through the floor in limited use, but gets away from him in longer stints. His change is average.
Maybe a change of scenery and new coaches to work on some mechanical tweaks will do Greene good. Maybe, and I’ve said this before, a test at closer or late-inning relief would suit Greene better. He has the tools, they just need to be refined. Watching how he develops in a system known for pitching prospects is something certainly worth keeping tabs on in 2018.