School: University of South Carolina; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2; Weight: 245
Previously Drafted: Cleveland Indians, 21st round, 2014
Background: A late round flier by the Cleveland Indians coming out of Pigeon Forge High School three years ago, Crowe, who was the 632nd pick that year, opted to ply his trade for Head Coach Chad Holbrook instead. Crowe immediately made waves for the Gamecocks during his freshman season, pairing with Yankees youngster Jordan Montgomery and Rockies MiLB pinpoint artist Jack Wynkoop to give the club a trio of dominant starters.
Crowe, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound right-hander out of Sevierville, Tennessee, finished the year with 2.75 ERA, 59 strikeouts, and 19 walks across 91.2 innings of work. Baseball America named the hard-throwing hurler as a second-team Freshman All-American.
Needless to say, there was plenty of hype surrounding the budding ace heading into the 2016 season. And he struggled – mightily – before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. Just nine starts into his sophomore season, Crowe’s UCL tore in a start against the Florida Gators. He opted for surgery, rather than take the rehab route. He would finish the year with an impressive 59-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51.1 innings. The surgery – and subsequent rehab – knocked him out for the remainder of 2015 as well as the entire 2016 collegiate season.
Crowe came back strong for the Lexington County Blowfish in the Coastal Plain League last summer, throwing 18.0 innings while fanning 24 and walking just four. So far he’s been able to carry that momentum into his redshirt junior year as well: through his first 13 starts, Crowe’s punched out 72 and walked 27 to go along with a 3.50 ERA.
Projection: So…there’s a lot of things going on here.
- During his freshman season with the Gamecocks Crowe was a curmudgeon when it came to issuing free passes and coughing up long balls: he averaged just 1.87 BB/9 and 0.20 HR/9. But he simply didn’t miss enough bats either (5.79 K/9). That punch out rate, by the way, was lowest mark by any pitcher with at least 14 innings pitched that year for the school.
- During his injury-shortened sophomore campaign he started missing a surprising amount of sticks: 10.34 strikeouts every nine innings, to be exact. But his once-stellar walk rate ballooned up to 3.33 BB/9.
- Now in his third collegiate season, Crowe’s strikeout rate has declined down to 8.13 K/9, which is still a solid mark, though far from dominant, and he’s trimmed his walk rate down to 3.05 BB/9.
- Then, of course, there’s the injury. Not only did it stunt his development, but he’s now entering the draft as a 22-year-old – essentially putting him in the “senior draft class.”
Add it all up and Crowe has the makings of a late first/early second round pick. Just to add a little additional context, consider this: Since 2011, just three SEC pitchers have thrown at least 75 with a strikeout rate between 7.5 and 8.5 K/9 and a walk rate between 2.75 and 3.25 BB/9. Those three pitchers: Jonathon Crawford, Kyle Cody, and Conner Kendrick.
Crawford, the 20th overall pick in the 2013 draft, has struggled to make it above High Class A and will likely be ticketed for a relief role soon. Cody, who was nabbed by the Twins in the second round but didn’t sign to only go four rounds later as a senior, has looked decent in the low levels of the minors. And Kendrick petered out of baseball after a few years as a ninth round pick.
As for Crowe, he looks like a potential backend starter with the floor of a good reliever.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Floor: 1.0-win player
Grade: First/Second Round