The Peculiar Case of Tyler Greene


Tyler Greene might just be the most interesting man on the St. Louis Cardinals.  Now, I am biased in that he has long been a favorite of mine, however, when you look at some of the facts, that opinion holds stronger water.

Here are some facts:  Tyler Greene strikes out a lot.  Tyler Greene has power.  Tyler Greene walks at a  good enough rate to overcome (potentially) his lack of contact skills.  Tyler Greene is a middle infielder.

Now, his profile is very unique.  The closest comparison I can come with – at a player who has been successful – is Jimmy Rollins.  Now just like Greene, Rollins is a really frustrating player because he is the opposite of consistent.  Apparently, their style does not lend to comfortable viewing pleasure.

Anyway, I’d say very confidently that Jimmy Rollins is probably the best case scenario for Tyler Greene, so much so that he has like a less than 1% chance of actually fulfilling that role.  Nonetheless that small chance that he does and the better chance that he becomes a competent – and more importantly – cheap middle infielder are reasons why he should be paid attention to.

So I thought I’d take a look at the professional career of Greene.  Coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Greene was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2002 MLB Draft.  He did not sign with the Braves and instead enrolled at Georgia Tech.  Considering he lived in Florida and had the opportunity to play next door essentially, I find this a peculiar decision.  Evidently, he was confident he could get more money or was just really interested in school.

Somehow, I doubt the latter, but those are the two most likely reasons he attended Georgia Tech, curiously located in the same state as where he would aim to play in the MLB.

At Georgia Tech, he was highly successful immediately as he made the Freshmen 2nd All-American team as a shortstop.  He also played in the Summer League as a 3B doing so well that he made the Summer League All-American team.

After batting .372 with a .460 on-base percentage and 12 homers as a shortstop, Greene was thought to be a borderline 1st round prospect who likely would be drafted in the supplemental or 2nd round.  After picking a prospect who fell due to signablity issues in Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals went the “safe” way in drafting Tyler Greene just four picks later at 30th overall, who was a near sure bet to sign as compared to Rasmus.

After signing, Greene had middling success at best in Low and High A.  Despite having a rather mediocre .722 OPS in the New York Penn League at New Jersey in 138 at-bats, the Cardinals rushed him all the way to Palm Beach in High A.  There, he struggled even worse with a .326 on-base percentage albeit with just 91 plate appearances.

In his first round in the pros, Greene at least flashed some serious speed with 19 stolen bases, and more importantly was caught stealing just once.  He also hinted at having power potential with 16 doubles in a little over 200 plate appearances.  Unfortunately, his glove was inconsistent at least in the error department with a whopping 18 errors in less than half a season.

Presented with this information, the Cardinals decided to drop Greene down a level and send him to Quad Cities to begin 2006.  There he showed basically what was to come.  He struck out at a high rate (29.1%), had ridiculous power (.265 isolated power > slugging percentage – average), got on base a great clip (.375), and his stolen base success continued (11-11).  He also cut down on the errors with just ten errors in half a season.

The Cardinals promoted Greene back to Palm Beach midway through the season where he played pretty awful.  He had a .224 average, largely thanks to a 33.6% strikeout rate.  He got on base at a .308 clip and his power was partly decimated at just .325 and only 5 homers in 303 plate appearances.  He also somehow managed to make 23 errors in the half a season he was at Palm Beach.

Nonetheless, the Cardinals showed faith he would get better and rushed him to Springfield in AA to begin the 2007 season hoping he would respond positively.  He struggled through an injury-ravaged season batting just .244.  He showed some signs of life with a .204 ISO and eight homers in a little over 300 plate appearances.  Unfortunately, overall he barely managed to raise his numbers and lowered his high walk rate in what is known as a huge hitter’s park.

In 2008, the Cardinals kept him in Springfield and Greene finally rewarded them, for the time being.  He hit 16 homers in 408 plate appearances, lowered his strikeout rate to a professional low at 26.5% and was +10 runs above average according to Total Zone.  He did not go without negatives however.

He started walking only 5.4% of the time.  For a hitter with severe contact issues, walking is about the way to make up for it.  His on-base percentage for that season was at a minor league low at .307.  He had three straight seasons at that point with a OBP below .310.  Players who do that typically are not going to be successful at the major league level.  He needed to solve his issue with getting on-base before he was going to be successful.

The Cardinals decided to promote him to get him a taste of Memphis at the end of the year.  Greene wanted to confuse the hell out of the Cardinals brass so he decided to get on base more, strike out more, and lose almost all of the power he had in AA.

Again, the Cardinals took a leap of faith going into 2009 and added him to the 40 man roster.  Greene decided to become really interesting in a different way. In 388 plate appearances, he walked at a career high rate with 9.8% walk rate.  He also lowered his strikeout rate dramatically at a more manageable 25.3%.  He gained back to the power he seemingly lost hitting 15 homers and having an ISO of .191.  He also stole 31 bases and only got caught THREE times.

So the Cardinals promoted him to the majors and he absolutely sucked.  He had a .222 average walking 3.4% of the time and had an ISO of just .102.  Despite playing 529 games at short, 10 games at third, and zero games at any other position, the Cardinals played Greene everywhere in 2009.  He played 11 games at 3B, seven games at 2B, 30 games at SS, and a game apiece at 1B and CF.

In 2010, he started the year in Memphis as well deferring to lesser options such as Skip Schumaker and Aaron Miles.  Likely oblivious to this, Greene did well in Memphis though not quite as well as his ’09 season.  His strikeout rose slightly, his walk rate lowered slightly, his power decreased, and his was less productive on the basepaths.

In his short time with the Cardinals, he basically did the same thing as ’09 albeit with a better walk rate.  He wasn’t showing the power potential that he had and he had unfavorable fielding numbers according to UZR.

So far this year, things are promising.  In a limited sample size, his contact issues remain.  He has a 31.6% strikeout rate and a .240 average.  He still has not shown the power he flashed at the minor league level, but he has time.  He has also been a plus defender which is what we expected.

Overall, Greene is definitely a player who deserves playing time and I fear when Skip Schumaker comes back, he will not unless he raises his game up by the time he arrives.