Avila: Riley Greene Developing Into Big-Leaguer Faster Than Tigers Thought

By 97.1 The Ticket
The first clues came in spring training. Every time Riley Greene crashed Major League camp, he looked like he belonged. The signs were even clearer in Summer Camp when he showed up to Comerica Park and put on a show. The takeaway is that Greene might be closer to Detroit than we thought.

It's not just his highlight-reel catches or opposite-field home runs. It's his literal appearance. The 19-year-old has beefed up in a big way since Detroit drafted him fifth overall in 2019.

"When we first got him he looked skinny, an athletic, slim guy. Now you can see he’s putting on some muscle," general manager Al Avila said Monday. "You see him without a shirt and you can see the definition. That strength of becoming a Major League player, a man, is coming faster than I even thought.

"The power is there, the athleticism, he’s got good running speed, obviously he’s taken a lot of pride in his defense. That total package, we’re seeing it develop right in front of our eyes pretty quickly. For a kid right out of high school, that’s pretty special." 

Greene is listed at 6'3, 200 lbs. He may have been the same height a year ago. He certainly wasn't the same weight. He said he spent the offseason working on his speed, and the power in his legs is proof.

This type of physical maturation isn't common. Not at Greene's rate, not at his age. Fellow first-rounder Derek Hill has toiled in the minors since the Tigers drafted him out of high school in 2014. He's just now beginning to bloom.

"That’s why with the Riley Greene’s of the world, you’re happy that the development seems to be happening a little bit faster than for the average high school kid," said Avila. 

It makes you wonder when Greene might reach the majors. The lost season in the minors won't do him any good, but maybe he can overcome that with his natural talent and grown-man frame. He'll spend the next couple months training with Detroit's taxi squad in Toledo. Is a late-season arrival in 2021 out of the question? 

Not with what we've seen so far. 

Nor is it unrealistic to suggest Greene is becoming the centerpiece of Detroit's rebuild. His potential is that high. With the wealth of young talent around him, the Tigers have to be feeling pretty good about the future. 

"My answer is, we’re cautiously, optimistically happy," said Avila. "I’m not going to be totally happy until we start winning games. The day I’ll be happy is when we’re in the playoffs. The day that I’ll be happiest is when we’re in the World Series. So there’s a long way to go.

"As far as adding talent to the organization, yeah, I think we’ve done a good job. I think from where we were a few years ago to where we are right now is a tribute to our scouts, our analytic department and our player development system. I think we’re on the right track, for sure, and our fans should know that we are on the right track. With a little patience, we’ll get to where we want to go."