Greene, Adell realizing Futures quickly

One year after Draft, Reds, Angels prospects bring tools to DC

Hunter Greene and Jo Adell are playing in the first Futures Games of their careers. (Travis Berg, Jerry Espinoza/MiLB.comm)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | July 15, 2018 7:15 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Hunter Greene and Jo Adell have crossed paths several times. There were the countless showcase events in which they displayed the skills they developed in the high-school ranks in California and Kentucky respectively. There was the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, which both attended in person at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey, before going second overall to the Reds and 10th overall to the Angels.

But when both were named to the U.S. team for Sunday's All-Star Futures Game, there was one encounter that immediately came to mind, and Greene made sure folks remembered it. Last Wednesday, the Cincinnati pitching prospect tweeted a picture of himself and Adell at the 2016 high-school Home Run Derby that took place before, well, that year's Futures Game at Petco Park in San Diego.

Tweet from @HunterGreene17: Throwback to 2016 ALL Star Weekend High School HR Derby. S/O to my man @joadell25 who���s tearing it up! Excited to share the same dugout this weekend 💪🔥 @MLB @MiLB #Futures2018 pic.twitter.com/zIDHOoLtc4

The event didn't count for much and was mostly a formality. (Adell wore a Padres logo on his sleeve and Greene a Yankees one.) It did, however, give each a chance to swing for the fences in a big league park -- Greene hit five, Adell went deep only once before hitting the five-out limit -- and measure themselves up against not only their immediate competition but also the Minor Leaguers featured later in the day. That day, then-top Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada was named MVP and then-Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez went deep.

Two years later, Greene and Adell aren't just interested parties watching the Futures Game. They're playing in the season's premier prospect showcase.

"We're watching the Futures Game and watching those guys out there and thinking that we were so much further away than what we really ended up being," Adell said. "That's just really cool how in 2016 we were just watching it from a high-schooler's perspective, and then it feels like all of a sudden, we're playing in the game."

Video: Adell at Futures Game

A lot has changed in the two years since, but a lot also hasn't.

Greene, now ranked as MLB.com's No. 18 overall prospect, has ditched shortstop to become a full-time pitcher, but he still sports one of the Minors' elite fastballs, regularly hitting triple-digits like he did at Notre Dame High School. Adell -- No. 36 overall -- has added a lot more power than he showed on that day in San Diego, looking like a potential five-tool star in the outfield in his first full season in the Angels system. Those skill sets enabled both to be the first high-schoolers drafted in 2017 to appear in a Futures Game.

As in the Derby that also included 2017 top pick Royce Lewis of Minnesota, both prospects were chosen to compete with an elite group, and their experience in these types of showcases have helped them on the biggest and littlest of stages. In fact, a trip to the Futures Game was always kind of in the plan, according to Greene.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised," said the Reds' No. 2 prospect. "Without sounding cocky, I'm confident in what I do on the mound and on the baseball field. I feel like I deserve to be here. A lot of people obviously pulled for me to be here, and my performance in the Minor Leagues has helped a lot. So I don't feel awkward being here. I feel like I fit in."

Video: Greene at Futures Game

Despite that confidence, it wasn't always a given that Greene's plus-plus fastball and impressive slider would earn him a spot in Washington. The 18-year-old right-hander sported a 10.06 ERA with Class A Dayton as late as May 18 and didn't pitch into the sixth inning in a single start until June 22. He's starting to find himself with a 2.72 ERA, 54 strikeouts and only 10 walks in his last nine starts (46 1/3 innings), highlighted by a 10-strikeout, seven-inning scoreless outing on July 2. Given he moved to the mound full-time recently, this first season was always going to be a process, but it's one that has beared some special fruit of late.

"I can't remember the game it turned around, but it's been pretty cool to see myself turn it around," Greene said. "For the team to support me and have the right coaches and the right pitching coaching staff around me to help me out, so that's been really cool. Having my routine and learning about hitters and their tendencies has helped a lot. ... Just my pitch philosophy [has changed], how I'm going to approach batters, guys that are more experienced, what their tendencies are, what their hot and cold zones are and focusing on that. Pitching to their weaknesses."

Adell, by comparison, has been more of a lock to head to Washington since almost Opening Day. The top Angels prospect, who ascended to that spot after the graduation of Shohei Ohtani, has been one of the breakout stars of the first three months-plus of the Minor League season. He hit .326/.398/.611 with six homers in 25 games with Class A Burlington before he was aggressively pushed to Class A Advanced Inland Empire, where he's more than held his own despite being the age of a college freshman. Over 45 games in the California League before Sunday, the right-handed slugger had produced a .314/.353/.597 line with 11 homers. He's shown plenty of range and arm while playing all three outfield spots, and the question is no longer about whether the Halos got too aggressive by pushing their 2017 first-rounder, but rather how quickly can or should they move him next.

"For our organization, it's all about, 'Are you ready mentally?'" Adell said. "It's one of those things where you have to show you can handle it -- handle the failure, handle the success. That's what we're big on, the pressure."

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Both Adell and Greene got a taste of that pressure in San Diego two years ago, and they were hoping to put lessons learned from playing in big league parks to the test Sunday in Washington. One of them -- don't sweat it.

"To be honest with you, it's just another game," Greene said. "Obviously, it's the All-Star Futures Game, which is amazing. It's a great event. But I've got to approach it the same way. Can't get too hyped up. Can't, if something happens, get too low. You've got to be the same person and be in the middle. That's how I'm approaching it and going from there."

Adell agreed the Futures Game is a reward, but not one worth looking much into. The goal, after all, is to play in a Major League park more than once every two years.

"It's a blessing to be able to be here and be showcased in this game," said the Halos outfielder. "But I think the big thing is we all have stuff to work on. We're all still going through the maturation process. That's just part of it. We're all going to be where we're going to be at the end of the day. That's what I kept saying on Draft Night. We'll end up where we're supposed to be, and that's what I truly believe. These [players] have the chance to play in the big leagues and should play in the big leagues. It's just a matter of when."

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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