Conner Greene started on Opening Day for the Naturals and celebrated a win and his 24th birthday at the same time. Greene made his first start in the Royals organization after being claimed from St. Louis this off season. It was easy to see why the Royals like him after watching his first start.
Stuff. First let’s take a look at his stuff on the night. His fastball ranged from 93 to 98 on the MiLB.tv broadcast. Most mentions of the fastball were either at 95 or 96 which is where I would guess he worked most of the night. The fastball had a little bit of arm side run but not much. But it was explosive out of his methodical windup. He threw a solid change up in this start using it in several different situations. The pitch was downhill like his fastball and also had slight arm side run. I didn’t see any tumbling action or significant sink. It was more of a deception pitch. Greene also threw a slider that has glove side movement and some sink. It is a hard breaking pitch meaning it isn’t loopy and he throws it hard. The pitch doesn’t have huge break but it has enough to be effective. Greene also threw a 12-6 curve although not very much. It is very different than the slider and has big, loopy break to it. It is a softer breaking pitch but again, very different than the slider which is good.
Approach. Greene’s goal was to fill up the zone with a lot of fastballs. This isn’t a word for word quote, but it’s basically what he said in his interview from the day before. Greene followed this approach, the first time through especially. The second time through the lineup he did pitch backwards more using off speed stuff early.
When he was ahead in the count early, he used the slider against RHHs. When he was ahead in the count against LHHs, he used the change. There were several times he used the change in a hitter’s count and got swings and misses or weak contact stealing himself some outs. Out of the four curve balls I saw/remember, two were first pitch strikes to LHHs. He used it once against a RHH but it was mostly for LHHs. He seemed to take the same approach with his slider only the opposite handed hitters. RHHs saw the slider often. I only saw it to a LHH one time and that was to the back foot for a strikeout.
Greene attacked up in the zone with both his fastball by design, and his slider. I’m not sure if the sliders up were accidents or intentional, but he got two strikeouts on sliders up and moving away from RHHs.
Mechanics. The mechanics were smooth today. There was only one time I saw him overthrow a fastball and his tempo quickened and he yanked the pitch down and away from a RHH. Of course, the pitch was the hardest he threw all night at 98. Everything else he was in control of his body and smooth. There was no head whack. He stood tall in his delivery and had the front leg relaxed with the toes pointed down under his knee. Everything was smooth and very fluid.
I didn’t see much out of the stretch because he only allowed three runners and two of them doubled. With the runner on first he lifted the leg and used a slide step. I didn’t see any picks because the runner wasn’t at first long because the inning ended. With runners on second, he did the same. Mostly leg lifts, a few slide steps.
Overall. This was a great start for Greene. He had control of all his pitches, stayed in control of the game, kept a consistent tempo, and didn’t give up any free bases. After watching this start, I was excited about his chances of moving up the ladder and eventually pitching for the Royals. The slider can get better and I think it will as the Royals use more technology going forward. The change up was deceptive and got weak contact while the fastball was explosive. The two pitches made up a good combination for him. The curve was used sparingly and I’ll be interested to watch his pitch usage as the season goes forward.
The mugshot is from MLB.com.