Riley Greene is Turning into the All-Star the Detroit Tigers Need

So far this season, Riley Greene has stepped up for the Detroit Tigers, showing himself to be the franchise player they desperately needed.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - MAY 06: Riley Greene #31 of the Detroit Tigers rounds the bases after hitting a leadoff solo homer during the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on May 06, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers drafts of the past 20 years have been underwhelming. Prospects who were traded, flamed out, or never produced much of anything. After yet another teardown, Tigers fans shifted their faith and focus toward a new crop of youngsters, including the 2019 fifth-overall pick Riley Greene.

Greene flashed during his 2022 debut, but you could tell development was still needed. Another big step forward in ’23 but injuries and too many groundballs held him back from reaching an All-Star caliber level of play.

Through 35 games, Greene is looking like the player we were promised when he was drafted.

Entering May 7th, Greene is slashing .266/.391/.548 with nine home runs good for a 166 wRC+. He’s also walking at a 16.6% clip. The improvements we are seeing are more than just a lucky start, but tangible changes of a player settling into the big leagues.

Ad – content continues below


For the first time in Greene’s young career, he’s tapping into his power more consistently. Sure, Greene has always hit the ball hard, but hard contact and quality contact are not the same. The biggest change leading to Greene’s success has been his ability to lift the ball more.

YearAvg. Exit Velocity Barrel %Hard Hit RateSweet Spot %Launch Angle
202289.5 MPH9.3%45.2%32%2.8 Degrees
202391.6 MPH11.3%46.6%36.8%6.6 Degrees
202491.9 MPH 18.6%45.3%42.7%9.5 Degrees

You don’t have to dig too deep into your memory to pull out flashbacks of Greene hitting a ball 101 mph off the bat and straight into the ground. Lifting the ball was his biggest issue during his rookie campaign, 56% ground ball rate, but did improve to a still high 49% last season.

In 2024, Greene has cut his groundball rate to 43%. Obviously, the more often a ball is in the air and not on the ground, the better.

In the video above you’ll see all of Greene’s home runs from 2024. A couple of notable takeaways. He’s getting to his pull side power much easier than previous years. We saw flashes of this in the past, but never with as much consistency and comfort. And before you say it, I know a few of those pitches were meatballs, but isn’t that what good hitters do? Take advantage of pitchers mistakes?

To me, Greene simply looks more confident in his approach at the plate. We have seen him get his “A swing” off more often while also cutting down on strikeouts (still room to improve) and taking more walks. His 17.1% walk rate is near the top in baseball. Getting ahead in counts and capitalizing on that advantage has also helped his game reach another level.

In counts where Greene gets ahead, he’s slashing .387/.649/.839 with 25 walks and three strikeouts. When the pitcher gets ahead, he is hitting .156/.156/.222 with no walks and 22 strikeouts.

Ad – content continues below

While these numbers will always be advantageous to whoever is ahead, Greene’s been able to get ahead more often than not, which often means you’ll see a fastball.

So far, Greene is hitting .361 and slugging .721 off fastballs. He’s cut his swing and miss on fastballs down by nearly 7% compared to last year. I also have to mention his .160 average on breaking balls and .182 on off speed, where he also struggled last season. While concerning, the sample size is less than 50 results on off speed and breaking pitches each.


After playing mostly center to begin his career, Greene made the move to left this winter. Parker Meadows coming into the fold, a plus center fielder, played a role in the move but I think Greene was headed towards a corner with or without Meadows.

So far, so good. Greene currently has 2 outs above average (OAA) which ranks 16th in baseball and doubles last years total of 1. He’s made a handful of diving catches as well, some prettier than others.

Just watching from your couch you can probably tell Greene does not always have the cleanest route or best jumps on a ball. A few of those diving catches we remember are really because of a poor jump or bad initial read and route. Against Kansas City he had two in one game – one a bad read and the other was a great read robbing Hunter Renfroe of a hit (35% catch odds).

Keep in mind, Greene has a total of 30 games played in left. The angles are different and it will take time on task before he really looks completely comfortable out there. However, he’s shown that he has the ability to become a plus defender in left, something I did not feel as comfortable saying about center.

Ad – content continues below


Without Riley Greene, this team looks a lot different. He’s been the driving force of the offense, and since becoming the leadoff hitter, has a .981 OPS. A table setter to this lineup. Now, others need to pick up the slack.

At only 23 years old, Greene is far from a finished product. He’ll see a slump at some point. Perhaps pitchers will adjust and pitch him differently and it will be up to Greene to make his own adjustments. However, the quality of contact and lifting the ball more regularly makes me believe his All-Star potential is breaking through.