Riley Greene, the Detroit Tigers’ No.1 draft pick, was taking batting practice in Comerica Park on Friday afternoon, launching home runs with ease.
Hall of Famer Al Kaline was watching from behind a batting cage, and Greene launched a ball onto the Pepsi Porch onto the second deck in right field, and the ball bounced into Kaline’s Corner.
As if the Baseball Gods were in the mood to write pure poetry.
“He’s 18? For real?” Miguel Cabrera screamed, sitting in the dugout, unable to get up the steps because of a huge wrap around his right knee.
Another swing. Another home run.
“Leave him here!” Cabrera screamed, within earshot of several members of the Tigers front office, who were all watching intently. “We need him!”
It was absolutely surreal.
More: Why did Tigers draft Riley Greene? They’ve watched him since he was 15
After a slow start in his first two rounds, Greene seemed to make an adjustment — one of the things the Tigers love about him — and he put on a heck of a show, showing serious power, which is one of the reasons why the Tigers drafted him fifth overall and signed him to a $6.1 million contract.
“Yeah!” Cabrera screamed.
Several Tigers came out of the clubhouse to watch.
“We are here to watch you,” Nicholas Castellanos said, and then took a seat on a ledge.
Yeah, no pressure, right?
Just go out and hit kid, in front of several players, a couple Hall of Famers (Jack Morris also stood off to the side), several members of the front office, his family and a large group of photographers and reporters.
But he didn’t freak out. He just went out and crushed the ball, just like he did during a pre-draft workout at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.
“So, taking BP is probably one of my favorite things to do, like ever,” he said earlier in the day, during a press conference. “Especially on a big-league field, on this field, my first time here. I am really looking forward to it.”
“Any pressure?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “I love hitting. I trust myself. I’m really excited to get on the field and get to hit.”
After he was done, Greene went out and picked up balls, which impressed Kaline. “I like him, I like everything about him so far,” Kaline said. “He helped pick the balls up — he didn’t act like he’s anything special.”
Of course, it was only batting practice. Nobody is putting him into the Hall of Fame off of a couple dozen swings in BP. But professional hitters recognize talent, and Cabrera was clearly impressed.
After the batting session was done, Greene walked toward the Tigers dugout.
More: How Tigers believe they can keep Miguel Cabrera healthy at DH
“I can’t come up,” Cabrera said, wearing a wrap on his knee and looking at the steps.
So Greene went down the steps to meet Cabrera and they shook hands in the dugout.
“Congratulations!” Cabrera said.
“Thank you,” Greene said.
“Are you really 18?” Cabrera asked.
“Yes,” he said, smiling.
“You’ve got some pop,” Cabrera said. “You’ve got a really nice swing.”
“Really nice separation, so that’s good.”
“See you soon,” somebody said.
“What month?” Cabrera said and laughed from his gut. “See you later.”
Not anytime soon, to be clear.
Greene will start out next week in Lakeland, playing for one of the Tigers’ Gulf Coast League teams.
“It’s all been very exciting,” Greene said. “The night of the draft was amazing. To be able to spend that night with my family and friends was amazing. I think when I got home at around 11:30, I just thought, ‘Dang, I’m a professional baseball player now.’
“It just really hit me. When I got that feeling, it was just really exciting.”
More: Tigers add a bunch of ‘dudes’ who can hit through MLB draft
Of course, it is risky drafting a high school player.
But the Tigers feel as if they have found something special.
“He’s going to be a big part of our future success,” Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch said. “I’m excited to watch him develop and look forward to that day when he gets to Comerica Park.”
He will start out playing center field, thanks to his natural speed. The Tigers clocked him at 6.8 seconds in a 60-yard dash in Lakeland.
More: Tigers draft analysis: Greene a ‘no-brainer’ but Quintana risky
“Seven point zero is average,” Tigers assistant general manager David Chadd said. “He’ll fool you with his speed. Because of his size, you wouldn’t expect that type of speed. He’s got plus power, plus makeup, plus hit ability. Very impressive in the outfield. You look at the frame, he’s going to be a big, young man.”
Chadd has been scouting amateur hitters for 25 years.
“I would put him at the top of any young amateur, as far as power,” Chadd said. “At that age, you can only project, what they will be three or four years from now. I don’t want to put pressure on the young man. There is enough pressure on him as it is. In my scouting view, he will have above average power.”
And that’s exactly what he showed on Friday afternoon.
With some swings that had Cabrera smiling.
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.
Published at Fri, 07 Jun 2019 21:24:31 +0000