What do the Yankees have in Shane Greene?

With the rotation in flux following the Vidal NunoBrandon McCarthy trade, the Yankees gave the ball to rookie Shane Greene last night. Greene pitched pretty well in his first big league start, allowing two runs while striking out two over 6 innings. Still, his immediate future is unclear, and he might be replaced by Chase Whitley next time through the rotation. But even if he is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton, he’ll almost certainly be back in pinstripes sooner rather than later.

With a career 4.39 ERA, Greene’s minor league numbers have been nothing to write home about. However, his stuff is pretty legit, which is why the Yankees opted to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft last winter. He throws multiple types of fastballs — including a few that nearly touched 96 last night — and his slider was regularly clocked in the upper-80’s. He stuck to the fastball-slider combo almost exclusively, but also mixed in some token curveballs and a changeup.

To find comps for the 25-year-old, I looked for seasons from right-handers (200 pitch minimum) since 2008 where at least 95% of pitches thrown were either a fastball, slider, changeup, or curveball. Then I turned to PITCHf/x to find out how often these pitcher’s fastballs and sliders fell within one standard deviation of Greene’s average velocity, break length, break angle, and spin for those two pitches. These are the pitchers who threw the highest ratio of pitches comparable to what Greene threw in his first big league start.

Pitcher Greene% K% BB% ERA SIERA
2012 – Chris Perez 38% 24% 7% 3.59 3.11
2011 – Chris Perez 37 16% 11% 3.32 4.64
2013 – Jim Johnson 36 19% 6% 2.94 2.93
2011 Ryan Mattheus 36 9% 11% 2.81 5.18
2009 – Jesus Colome 35 15% 6% 7.59 4.11
2013 Edgmer Escalona 34 17% 7% 5.67 3.94
2011 – David Carpenter 34 23% 10% 2.93 3.43
2012 – Hector Ambriz 33 27% 13% 4.19 3.66
2011 – Nathan Eovaldi 33 16% 14% 3.63 5.11
2012 – David Carpenter 33 16% 10% 4.76 4.35
2013 – Chris Perez 33 22% 9% 4.33 3.40
2011 – Josh Stinson 32 14% 12% 6.92 4.71
2011 – Matt Capps 32 12% 5% 4.25 4.12
2013 – Dale Thayer 32 24% 8% 3.32 3.19
2010 – Chris Perez 32 24% 11% 1.71 3.57
Average 34% 18% 9% 4.13 3.96

We see mostly relievers on this list due to Greene’s reliance on his fastball and slider, but even so, there are some pretty exciting names in there: Chris Perez and Jim Johnson have been a couple of the better relievers in baseball these past few years. The biggest hurdle for Greene, though, will be his command. Despite having a big league-caliber arsenal, Greene walked 9% of batters faced in the minors and 11% before 2013 — a tell-tale sign that he doesn’t always know where the ball’s going. Hector Ambriz and Josh Stinson serve as flesh-and-bones examples of what can happen if Greene’s walk problem flares up again. Still, this list of comps bodes well for Greene’s long-term future, even if that future is as a late inning reliever.

You have to think that Greene showed enough last night to earn another start, but whatever the Yankees decide, I’d be willing to bet that we haven’t seen the last of Greene this year. Not only has he pitched very well of late, but Chase Whitley‘s also been awfully hittable in his last three starts. A couple of more bad starts from Whitley — or an injury to one of the other starters — is all it would take for Greene to get another crack at the rotation. By no means will Greene be the silver bullet that saves the rotation, but given his stuff and recent performance, there’s plenty of reason to think he can be a serviceable back-end starter — which is something the Yankees could really use right now.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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