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Prospect Greene putting in work on back fields

@beckjason
February 22, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Tigers fans get a glimpse of their top pitching prospects on the mound at Joker Marchant Stadium, the best hope for the next great Detroit hitter quietly goes to work on the back fields and in the hitting cages at Tigertown. It’s a long way from

LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Tigers fans get a glimpse of their top pitching prospects on the mound at Joker Marchant Stadium, the best hope for the next great Detroit hitter quietly goes to work on the back fields and in the hitting cages at Tigertown.

It’s a long way from the home-run display Riley Greene put on during a batting practice session at Comerica Park after the 2019 first-round MLB Draft pick signed last summer. But the fifth overall selection from last year’s Draft is laying relatively low in his first Spring Training.

Greene, the No. 46 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is staying in the dorms at Tigertown rather than driving in from his home in Oviedo, Fla., on the other side of Orlando. He’s sharing rides with Class A West Michigan teammate and fellow outfielder Parker Meadows when he ventures off-campus.

“I’m definitely not commuting. I-4 is terrible,” Greene said Saturday. “I’m staying in the dorms for now, trying to save some money. It’s not that bad. I have my own room.”

If that sounds humble, it fits his personality.

“He’s very humble," Meadows said. "He’ll pick you up when you’re down. He’s a great overall teammate.”

That doesn’t mean Greene is tucking away all of his $6.18 million signing bonus. He did allow himself to spend a little.

“I bought a boat in the offseason,” he said. “I use that a lot.”

The boat allows him to take salt-water fishing trips; he has a spot near Titusville around Florida’s Atlantic coast that he’s reluctant to reveal. He ended up there quite a bit over the offseason, once the adrenaline wore off from a whirlwind 2019 campaign that began in high school and ended with him trying to hit pitchers just drafted out of college.

A year ago at this time, Greene was worried about finishing classes and trying to lead Hagerty High School (Fla.) to an elusive state title. Now, he’s working on charging up the Tigers’ developmental ladder.

After taking a couple months to rest and recover, he went to work on his hitting and his training. Greene said he’s up to 209 pounds, up 10-15 pounds from the end of the season. He admittedly battled fatigue down the stretch, shortly after his promotion to West Michigan.

Greene pushed his way to the Whitecaps by batting .312 (39-for-125) in 33 games between the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and NY-Penn League. He homered in his Whitecaps debut on Aug. 8 and doubled the following day. Greene's next home run came on Sept. 1.

“My legs were hurting there at the end,” Greene said, “but I just kept going and had fun with it.”

Greene finished with a .219 average, two homers, 13 RBIs and a .622 OPS in 24 games with the Whitecaps. His defense didn’t suffer, teaming with Meadows for a rangy outfield duo.

“Me and Parker out there, I feel like nothing’s going to drop,” Greene said. “I was in right sometimes and he was in center. We’re both fast. He’s obviously faster than I am. But I just feel like no balls are going to drop out there. I feel very confident when he’s out there with us.”

Greene will take part in Minor League Spring Training games on the same fields when they begin next month, but he isn’t expected to appear in the Grapefruit League slate on the big league side. From there, he could end up back at West Michigan, but a hot start could put him on the fast track.

“I’ll just play as hard as I can, and people that move us up will do what they do,” Greene said. “I’m just going to play my hardest.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.