First Pitch: Finding Upside in Wil Crowe

I spent some time yesterday watching video of Wil Crowe, one of the right-handed pitchers the Pirates received in exchange for Josh Bell. The Pirates received the 26-year-old Crowe, along with 19-year-old Eddy Yean, from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Bell.

Yean is the bigger upside play here. He’s further from the majors, but has seen reported improvement in his stuff this year, and has plenty of time to develop his game.

Crowe, on the other hand, feels more like a safer play. The upside is a 5th starter, and a more conservative look has him as a reliever/rotation depth. That’s not to say that Crowe can’t improve on this upside. It’s just that any improvements from a 26-year-old are less likely to happen than they are at 19.

At this point, we can’t bank on Crowe adding velocity. He has a four-pitch mix with all of his pitches grading out at least average. He has poor control, and that seemed to get worse in his MLB debut in 2020. I don’t want to make much of those results, due to the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2020 season.

Crowe is in a tough spot. He doesn’t overpower hitters, and doesn’t have an out pitch. His four-pitch mix would work with strong control, but he lacks that. The lack of control wouldn’t be a problem if he could overpower hitters, or break out a plus secondary offering.

Crowe needs to go the full finesse route and improve his control, or find some way to add power to his pitching profile at an older age. The latter is a pipe dream. The former could be done with some creativity.

I spent some time watching videos of Crowe yesterday, before heading over to his FanGraphs page for a deeper look. First, the videos:

My initial impression was that Crowe’s fastball wasn’t going to overpower anyone. He’s going to have success with that pitch from sequencing, location, and the movement he gets.

The fastball tends to get flat for Crowe when it’s up in the zone, but has some movement when it’s in the lower half. That movement plays well off his slider, which many feel is his best breaking pitch. I was actually more impressed with his curveball, which Crowe only threw eight times in the big leagues in 2020. The fastball up in the zone is flat and very hittable. The curveball plays well off of this, looking like a high fastball at first, before the floor drops out.

Crowe used his fastballs well more than 50% of the time, despite poor results from each version of the pitch. His sinker plays well off the slider, and the curve plays well off the four-seam. He’d be a good candidate to pair those pitches like so, and reduce the usage of his fastball in the process.

Utilizing breaking stuff more often would help with the control. Crowe can focus on starting his breaking stuff down the middle and letting the movement carry the pitches to the edge of the strike zone. That would make him less predictable with the fastballs, and might improve the quality of those pitches, especially when sequenced with the appropriate breaking pitch.

That’s not an easy adjustment. I wouldn’t bank on Crowe being more than a 5th starter or a relief option. The good thing for the Pirates is that they can still use him in that role, due to lack of options in the big leagues. That will give Crowe plenty of time to develop his game and try to improve that ceiling.

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I hope everyone has a safe and Merry Christmas!

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This week we released a 27-page free preview of the 10th Anniversary Prospect Guide. The preview is already a bit dated with the trade, but the final version of the book will have Crowe and Yean in the top 50.

You can download the free preview of the 10th Anniversary Prospect Guide here.

Be sure to purchase your full copy of the book at our shop. This year sees the return of a limited amount of print copies of the book, including exclusive covers featuring Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes.

The 10th Anniversary Prospect Guide returns to print! We are releasing two variant covers this year, featuring Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Visit our shop to order these extremely limited items!

 

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