Hunter Greene has long been hyped as the potential next big thing in Major League Baseball -- he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 17. On Sunday the top Cincinnati Reds prospect made his long-anticipated MLB debut, and boy he did not disappoint.
The 22-year-old right-hander was electric over five innings against the defending world champion Atlanta Braves. He allowed three runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out seven. Greene earned his first career win in the process and looked completely unbowed by the situation.
While his entire outing was encouraging, Greene's incredible fastball lived up to the hype. He threw 56 of them on Sunday and they averaged 99.7 mph. Yeah, you read that right, his fastball averaged 99.7 mph. He topped out at 101.6 mph, and was routinely over 100 with a free and easy delivery. As if that wasn't enough, his slider was popping the glove in the 85 to 87 mph range. He also flashed an improved changeup.
Here's video from Greene's first inning, in which he struck out Matt Olson and Austin Riley swinging:
Greene's trek through the minor leagues took a few twists and turns and he arrived in the big leagues a bit later than expected. His 2018 season was cut short after spraining the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He attempted to rehab it, but wound up undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019, then didn't pitch in 2020 due to the minor league season being cancelled. So that was nearly two and a half years without pitching competitively.
Greene dominated Double-A at Chattanooga in 2021, going 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and 60 strikeouts against 14 walks in 41 innings. He got bumped up to Triple-A Louisville where he proceeded to struggle. Over the latter half of the 2021 season, Greene went 5-8 with a 4.13 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 79 strikeouts against 28 walks in 65.1 innings.
After those late-seasons struggles, it wouldn't have been surprising for him to start in Triple-A again this season. But the Reds have clearly thrown in the towel on competing after trading away a ton of their top players, so it makes sense to let Greene grow in the bigs now.
After one start, it's clear Greene has the stuff to compete at the MLB level. He is likely to be the face of Cincinnati's rebuild and will be the one thing giving the team's fans hope. He's certainly a lot of fun to watch. And, for now, he's living up to his enormous promise.