Welcome back to another week of Top Dynasty Keepers.
The regular season will soon be coming to and end, which means the major league debuts of two of the games top prospects will also be coming to an end.
VERY DIFFERENT PLAYERS
This week we are going to take a look at Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers and Triston Casas of the Boston Red Sox.
Both players entered the season as two of the top prospects in the game. Riley was a consensus Top 10 prospect, entering the season ranked fourth by Baseball America, fifth by MLB.com and sixth by Baseball Prospectus.
Greene was one of the top hitting prospects in the 2019 draft and has remained so since becoming a professional.
Meanwhile, Casas entered the 2022 season as the 19th best prospect by Baseball America, 16th my MLB.com and 44th by Baseball Prospectus. Unlike Greene, Casas was not drafted because of his hit tool. He was drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft because he can hit the ball a long way.
GETTNG THEIR FEET WET
While Greene and Casas are very different players, both have one thing in common – they have both reached the majors this season.
So far, their debuts have been a mix of good and bad. Both have struggled at the plate at times. Greene is currently hitting under .250 while Casas is barely hitting about .100 during his brief time with the Red Sox.
But both players have shown off the tools – Greene’s overall hitting skill and Casas’ massive power – that got them promoted from the minors.
So let’s take a look at the two rookies.
Since being drafted as the fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft, Greene has proven himself worthy of that draft selection. After signing with the Tigers, he was sent to Rookie ball and in nine games he slashed .351/.442/.595 with two homers and eight RBI to earn a promotion to Low-A ball. Greene proceeded to slash .296/.380/.386 in 24 games with another homer and seven RBI and one steal to earn yet another promotion, this time to Class A ball.
While he didn’t set the world on fire with a slash line of .219/.278/.344, he still hit two homers and drove in 13 runs while going 4-for-4 in steals. Greene then spent 2020 at the Tigers’ alternate training site, before starting the 2021 season at Double-A Toledo.
In 2021 at Double-A, Greene started to show off his power as he hit 16 homers with 54 RBI and 12 steals while slashing .298/.381/.525 in 84 games.
That success led to a promotion to Triple-A. The move up didn’t phase Greene. In 40 games he slashed .308/.400/.554 with eight homers, 30 RBI and four steals. His combined numbers at Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 were 24 homers and 84 RBI with 16 steals while slashing .301/.387/.534.
About the only numbers that were not in favor of Greene during his first two professional seasons was his 26% strikeout rate, though that was offset a bit by a 10.4% walk rate.
Greene was sure to start the 2022 season in the majors, but he fouled a ball off his right foot in spring training. While surgery was not required, the injury was enough to force Greene to not be ready for the start of the season. After healing and going on a rehab assignment, Greene made his debut with the Tigers on June 18 and has basically been a regular in the lineup since then.
Up and Down
As expected, Riley has experienced a series of ups and downs during his first season in the majors. After joining the Tigers, he had a solid June, slashing .286/.419/.314 in his first 10 games. But July was not kind. In 27 games, he slashed only .231/.280/.359 with two homers and 12 RBI. He struggled on the bases as well, going 0-for-4 in steal attempts.
Meanwhile, he struggled to make consistent contact at the plate, striking out 39 times in 125 plate appearances for an ugly 31.2 strikeout percentage with a walk percentage of only 6.4%. He rebounded a bit in August by hitting .266 and slugging .434, but his strikeout rate remained high at 33.6% while his walk rate got even worse at 4.9%. This month he is slashing .224/.297/.269.
The good news is he has not tried to pull everything. His spray chart shows how he has used all parts of the field to get his hits. His power is still mostly to the pull side, but he has done a great job of going to the opposite field and with some pop.
Inside the Numbers
Greene has often shown his power in batting practice, and it has carried over into games, especially to the pull side. As he gets stronger, his power should show up more regularly, allowing him to be an above-average power hitter.
But to do that, he is going to have to lower his strikeout rate, which for the season is 29.3% compared to the major league average of 22.1%. He must also lift the ball more. While he has a nice barrel percentage of 9.2% (MLB average is 6.7%) and his hard hit percentage of 43.4% beats the MLB average of 35.8%, his launch angle is only at 2.2%. The MLB average is 12.1%.
If you are beating the ball into the ground, it doesn’t matter how much raw power you have or how hard you are hitting the ball off the bat. Ground balls more often than not turn into outs.
Power is his Game
Like Greene, Casas was a first round pick as the Red Sox snagged him with the 26th selection in 2018. Since joining the Boston organization, Casas has been one of the top power prospects in the minors. A member of Team USA at the 2018 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Casas tied for the tournament lead in homers with three in six games.
In his first full season as a pro, Casas went out and smashed 29 homers in 120 games at the Class A and High A levels, while also driving in 81 runs. He continued to hit the ball over the fence in 2021. Playing in 86 games at Double-A and Triple-A as a 21-year-old, he hit 14 homers and drove in 59 runs while slashing .279/.394./484.
Lots of Walks
Aside from hitting for power, Casas does a great job of getting on base via the walk. His career walk rate in the minors was a very impressive 13.6%, leading to a very nice .374 OBP. Casas does have some swing and miss in his game. In his 284 career minor league games, he has a strikeout percentage of 21.6%. And this season in the minors it was at 20.9%.
In his brief time with the Red Sox, both the walks and strikeouts have been on display. Through his first 16 games, his walk rate is at 17%. However, his strikeout rate has jumped up to 26.4%
But that Power!
Casas has not had a great start to his career with the Red Sox. He enters Sunday with a slash line of .114/.264/.318. But when he has made contact, it has been productive. Of his first five hits, three have ended up over the fence. His massive 6-foot-4 frame gives him plus-plus raw power to all parts of the park, as seen here with this bomb over the Green Monster off a 98 mph fastball from Gerrit Cole.
When it comes to Greene, he should be an above-average hitter, approaching .300 each season thanks to a smooth stroke at the plate. Once he learns to lift the ball more at the major league level, he should also produce above-average power.
While he has struggled stealing bases so far, he is an above-average runner, allowing him to reach double digits in steals each year. We have to remember that he is still only 21-years-old. I fully believe he will figure things out at the plate and be a productive middle-of-the-order bat who will also give you some steals.
If you are expected Casas to hit for a high average, you will be disappointed. Hitting for average is just not a part of his game. But if you are expecting Casas to hit a lot of home runs, you will be very happy.
Casas doesn’t swing for the fences as he just has great natural power to all fields. Only 22, Casas started to do a better job of working counts last year and so far has shown a good eye at the plate with the Red Sox. I would be surprised if he isn’t a consistent 35- to 40-homer player in a few years. And who doesn’t like that in their fantasy lineup?