Blue Jays: Is it time to see what Conner Greene can do as a reliever?

ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 18: Toronto Blue Jays' players Wilson baseball gloves lay in the dugout during a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park on May 18, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Texas won 6-2. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 18: Toronto Blue Jays' players Wilson baseball gloves lay in the dugout during a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park on May 18, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Texas won 6-2. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images) /

For the first time in many years, there’s going to be a very nice amount of depth in the AAA Buffalo Bisons rotation. There will be some promising arms in AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats rotation as well. With the rise of arms like Ryan Borucki, Chris Rowley, Nate Pearson, T.J. Zeuch, and others, the excitement level for the stalled Conner Greene has started to fade and quickly.

So, what’s next for the electric arm of Conner Greene? Perhaps it’s time to see what he can do out of the bullpen.

Conner Greene currently ranks as the 11th best prospect in the Blue Jays system behind the arms of Nate Pearson (7), Sean Reid-Foley (6), and T.J. Zeuch (5). Behind Greene in the top 30 list is Ryan Borucki (13), Justin Maese (14), Eric Paradinho (15) and many others including the exciting Jordan Romano (20) and Thomas Pannone (22). It’s quite possible that with another season like 2017 that we see Greene’s prospect ranking in the system fall below everyone I mentioned.

Greene struggled mightily in 2017 with a 5.29 ERA, 4.49 FIP, and ugly 5.63 BB/9. Control has always been Greene’s downfall through his minor league career as evidenced by his 12.0 BB%. It’s the one big thing that seems to be holding him back because his HR/9 in 2017 was 0.47 and he rolls up groundballs very effectively at 52.1%.

For a guy with an extremely electric arms which usually sees Greene touch 100 on a consistent basis, he doesn’t strikeout as many as you’d think, but those strikeout totals will likely see a bit of a boost when he reaches the MLB. But when will Blue Jays fans see Conner Greene? If they keep him as a starter, I would imagine he’s still a bit of a way off. However, with all the exciting young arms to be in AAA Buffalo and with Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman in the rotation, the Blue Jays could definitely afford to bring Conner Greene up and put him in the bullpen.

Greene has the arm to be able to be inserted into the Blue Jays bullpen now and have some good results. With a fastball that averages 96.5 MPH, a changeup at 85.7 and a curveball at 79.9, he has the stuff to be able to get big league hitters out. Peoples concern will be Greene coming out of the bullpen and walking a storm of batters like he’s done his entire MiLB career. However, if the Blue Jays decide they want to roll with Greene in the bullpen to start his MLB career, I can see him following an identical path to stardom like Aaron Sanchez.

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Aaron Sanchez and Conner Greene have very similar career BB/9 numbers throughout their minor league careers. When Sanchez was on the verge of coming up to the bigs, there was a ton of concern about Sanchez walking batters out of the bullpen, but that didn’t happen at all. As a reliever in 2015, Sanchez has a BB/9 of 2.71. While in the bullpen, Sanchez was able to focus on hitting the strike zone and almost exclusively use his fastball while occasionally mixing in his off-speed stuff. Greene would be able to do the same out of the bullpen.

It important to remember, Aaron Sanchez had a 5.05 BB/9 in the first half of the season when he was a starter for the vast majority of it before being transitioned back to the bullpen. Greene could come up to the MLB and pitch out of the bullpen in 2018 and if he is successful like Sanchez was in 2014, could be in the 2019 rotation to start the season. If he figures out his command and is successful, he stays in the rotation. If he struggles like Sanchez did (injury was part of the reason for going back to the bullpen too) Greene could be a big bullpen weapon for the 2nd half of 2019.

In Sanchez’s 2016 breakout season, he largely figured out his command. With the same electric stuff and same issues plaguing him, I see no reason why the Blue Jays wouldn’t bring Conner Greene up in 2018 to pitch out of the bullpen and follow the same path as Sanchez. If they still view him as a starter, he could start in the 2019 rotation. If he is extremely successful in the bullpen, the Blue Jays could consider making Greene a back-end of the bullpen arm and potentially close should the Blue Jays trade Roberto Osuna over the next few years.

Next: Blue Jays: Trading Osuna is smarter than Donaldson

I think we see Conner Greene in 2018 out of the bullpen. With the arms that have moved ahead of Greene in the system, there’s zero harm in bringing him up as a reliever in 2018 and potentially have him follow the same career path as Aaron Sanchez. Conner Greene could become a very valuable bullpen arm should the Blue Jays be in a playoff race too. Blue Jays fans, I believe we finally get to see this long talked about arm in 2018.