Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press
Published 5:38 p.m. ET July 5, 2020 | Updated 7:36 p.m. ET July 5, 2020
Detroit TIgers prospect Riley Greene, the No. 5 overall pick in 2019, takes batting practice on Sunday, July 5, 2020 at Comerica Park.
Detroit Free Press
A year ago, Riley Greene took batting practice at Comerica Park for the first time.
Greene, fresh off signing his rookie contract after the Detroit Tigers selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, made an early impression. Among those he wowed in his batting practice session were Al Kaline and Miguel Cabrera.
On Saturday, the Tigers’ 2020 No. 1 pick, Spencer Torkelson, made his debut at Comerica Park in batting practice. People took notice.
But halfway through Sunday afternoon’s workout, Greene reminded the team what it also has in him as he took batting practice, spraying baseballs with backspin around the field.
He has a smooth swing from the left side, and on this day showed power to both fields — he twice hit home runs halfway up the seats in right field.
Perhaps most notable about his session was the kind of action his swing puts on the ball. With a bit of an uppercut swing, he gets good carry and his line drives seem to create a lot of spin.
To the naked eye, it is difficult to believe that Greene is just 19 years old. He was drafted out of high school in Oviedo, Florida, and rose two levels in the minor-league system in just half a season — in his first year as a professional.
Between rookie ball, Class A Connecticut and West Michigan, he hit .271 with five home runs and 28 RBIs. He perhaps could have started this season at Class A Lakeland had minor-league baseball not canceled the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, he received an easy ticket into the Tigers’ 60-man player pool. He and Torkelson have zero chance of debuting in 2020. But the Tigers could not risk their brightest prospects losing an entire year of development time.
In his first look in front of reporters this summer, Greene showed why he is regarded that way.
Other observations from the first three days of camp:
1. There’s a lot of starting pitching
Not just at the big-league level, where they have penciled in a five-man rotation of Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris, Ivan Nova, Spencer Turnbull and Jordan Zimmermann, but well beyond.
First is Michael Fulmer, whose physical appearance was most impressive among pitchers and catchers. Then there are the top starting pitching prospects in right-handers Matt Manning, Casey Mize and lefty Tarik Skubal.
Don’t forget about Alex Faedo. And though you cannot be blamed for doing so, also don’t forget about Franklin Perez.
2. Perez’s future
Perez threw a bullpen session Saturday afternoon. You have to try to not see a big-league future in his body. Perez, just 22 years old, has grown to 6-foot-3, 197 pounds.
Of course, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy in the slightest.
As the biggest piece acquired from the trade with the Astros three seasons ago, his standing has certainly lost its luster. Historically, the Tigers haven’t been inclined to move their starting pitchers into relief roles until it’s a last-case scenario.
They likely aren’t at that point with Perez, but watching him, you could certainly see a back-end reliever in there. For the Tigers, the time may come when they have to see if he can’t stay healthier in a different role. Either way, he’s just big out there.
3. Miggy is in a good mood
As manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday morning, Cabrera’s positivity has been noticeable. On Saturday, he walked out of the dugout, waving to team staffers in the crowd and didn’t stop dancing through the stretching portion of the day.
The youngsters certainly have injected some excitement into camp, but don’t discount the Tigers’ veteran additions in the offseason.
Though guys such as C.J. Cron, Austin Romine and Jonathan Schoop aren’t household names, they are legitimate major league players, and that kind of support is probably welcome to Cabrera.