As the (Aaron) Crow Flies

While perusing the Royals’ organizational chart the other day, I realized that it’s been quite some time since I’ve heard anything about Aaron Crow. The right-hander, you’ll recall, was the ninth overall pick by the Washington Nationals during the 2008 draft.

Stepping back into 2008 again, the Top 2 pitchers in the draft that year were Crow and Brian Matusz of the University of San Diego. Here is what Baseball American said about Crow before the ’08 amateur draft:

In three years, Crow has gone from an undrafted high school senior to the best righthander in the 2008 draft, thanks largely to the best fastball package available. Other pitchers may throw harder, but no one can match the combination of Crow’s velocity (92-96 mph with a peak of 98), hard sink, command and ability to maintain his fastball… Some teams wonder if his mechanics and size (generously listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds) might make him more of a closer than a front-line starter. Crow led the Cape Cod League with a 0.67 ERA last summer and was the No. 1 prospect in the league.

And here is a little something on Matusz:

Like David Price, the No. 1 pick last year, Matusz is tall and lanky at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, and scouts have history with him. He didn’t sign with the Angels in 2005 as a fourth-round pick out of an Arizona high school, and he starred for Team USA last summer, after ranking second (behind Price) in the nation in strikeouts… Matusz profiles as a middle of the rotation starter at worst, and if he improves his fastball and mechanics, he can become a staff ace.

There was a lot of debate over who was the better pick but it appears that Baltimore made the smart decision to take the more advanced left-hander. While Crow is struggling in double-A, Matusz is holding his own at the MLB level and has 15 MLB starts under his belt with a career xFIP of 4.58.

Unable to come to terms with Washington in ’08, Crow re-entered the draft in ’09 and went 12th overall to the Royals. He didn’t sign until late in the year so the former University of Missouri star officially began his pro career in April, 2010.

In the first start of his career, Crow allowed just one unearned run in 4.2 innings. His subsequent double-A starts have been inconsistent. His best stretch came in two games on April 29 and May 4 when he allowed just five runs on 12 hits in 15.0 innings. He walked three and struck out nine. In his last start against Tulsa (Colorado) on May 9, Crow was touched up for seven runs on seven hits and four walks in 5.0 runs. He did not strike out a batter.

Overall, he’s allowed 43 hits in 41.2 innings. Crow has given up 17 walks with just 21 strikeouts. Despite an excellent ground-ball rate of 70%, Crow has given up six homers (1.20 HR/9). If he keeps up that ground-ball rate, he should have some success, but he’s not going to reach his ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter with a sub-5.00 strikeout rate. It’s still early to get too worried, but flashes of Luke Hochevar are dancing in my head; one under-performing former No. 1 draft pick in enough for the Royals organization.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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A DC Wonk
Member
A DC Wonk
6 years 2 months ago

And us DC fans — at this point at least — are extremely grateful that Crow’s salary and other demands led to the Nats not signing him! Extremely!

Why?

Because the Nats got a compensation 1st-round-10th pick in 2009, and used it to pick Drew Storen, who signed the day after the draft (because he couldn’t wait to get to the bigs, and wanted to get started rightaway), and has had terrific success. (He’s “the other” 1st round pick of the Nats — and was promoted to AAA a few days before Stasburg was. He’s continued his success in AAA).

Expect both Strasburg and Storen to get promoted in June. (A much better outcome than had the Nats signed Crow)

KG
Guest
KG
6 years 2 months ago

I always like players that sign immediately; it really shows a desire to play. If I remember right, Jared Mitchell, drafted by the White Sox in 2009, did the same thing. I think it’s quite indicative of a player’s attitude. Tim Beckham did too, I think, and though he hasn’t lived up to his potential yet, I still look upon him fondly, a bit thanks to the quick signing.

Still think Crow would look better in a Nats uniform than Storen, as they need all the starting pitching they can get. Strasburg can’t pitch every day.

Zack
Guest
Zack
6 years 2 months ago

Storen, for as good as a talent as he is, is a reliever, and the Nats used the 10th overall pick on him. And I get it, that pick was unprotected and needed someone they knew was going to sign.

And you can’t use the sign date to determine a guy’s desire to play- MLB often wants teams to hold off on annoncement of over-slot contracts because they dont want it to affect other slots.

e3
Guest
e3
6 years 2 months ago

Actually, the Nats are fairly stacked at starter. Livan , Olson and Atilano have been pitching very well. Lannen is an established starter and Stamman’s been fine, if inconsistent. Then there’s Strasburg (a shoo-in), Wang and Marquis (both coming back from injuries, but both proven starters), Detwiler and Zimmermann (also coming back from injuries, but both very good prior to going down). There are also a few in the minors (e.g. Chico, Martin) who could easily fill out a rotation. Where they are definitely in need is in the relief corps (Capps and Clip and a bunch of questions marks who sometimes show up and sometimes don’t). Storen would actually fill a more immediate need than Strasburg.

TCQ
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TCQ
6 years 2 months ago

Translating for a certain someone being high on a hot start…

Livan sucks. Olsen is bouncing back to a younger form nicely, best pitcher on the staff. Atilano sucks. Lannen sucks.

The Nationals need all the starting they can possibly get, in other words.

e3
Guest
e3
6 years 2 months ago

Truly eloquent retort, TCQ. You must be a Phillies fan. But the stats for Livan (4-1 1.04 ERA over 6 starts and 43.1 innings), Atilano 3-0 (3.57 ERA in 4 starts over 22.2) and Lannon (lousy this year with an injury, but ERAs of 3.91 and 3.88 over the last two full seasons) don’t lie. I’ll take that kind of sucking any day.

Zack
Guest
Zack
6 years 2 months ago

“I’ll take that kind of sucking any day.”

That’s not the point. I think everyone admits their guys have gotten off to hot starts. But over 32 starts, Livan Hernandez sucks, and Scott Olsen hasnt had a FIP below 5 since his first year. Atilano has 12 BBs compared to 11 Ks so far- keep that up and yes he will “suck” too.

Reuben
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

not sure why he’s arguing for livan, olsen, and atilano when he’s got strasbourg, zimmerman, detwiler, and wang right there. the nats staff, fully healthy, won’t be the best in the NL, but it might be in the top 1/2. they could use some OF and 1B prospects as well as pitchers.

James
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James
6 years 2 months ago

Mr.Hulet Let me ask you.

Have u ever seen crow’s Piching this year?

Marc Hulet
Guest
Marc Hulet
6 years 2 months ago

Hey James, as I said in the article, I basically forgot about him due to the lack of hype, so, no… I haven’t seen Crow this year, yet. The last time I say him throw was in college. But he’s definitely been placed on my list of players to watch by the end of the year (it’s a big list).

That’s why I only spoke to what the numbers tell us at this point.

Mike
Guest
Mike
6 years 2 months ago

Crow spent most of the last few years not playing baseball. Let’s give him a few months to shake off the rust. Do not rush to judgement based on the first 41 innings of his professional career.
In spring training he displayed all the pure stuff that you hope to see in a first round pick. This article makes about as much sense as anointing Jose Guillen the home run king in mid-April

KowboyKoop
Guest
KowboyKoop
6 years 2 months ago

So, you say that him being inconsistent is less important becuase it’s too soon to judge him since he needs time to “shake the rust off,” and then IMMEDIATELY AFTER that you use how he looked in spring training (which occured BEFORE the minor league innings and which is a completely useless thing to judge a player on…) as evidence that he’s displaying the pure stuff you hope to see????

He’s quite clearly been a disappointment so far. Nobody is calling him a bust yet, but there’s no excuse…he simply has not been that good.

Paul
Guest
Paul
6 years 2 months ago

I’ll accept that his performance has been disappointing, but I’ll submit that it wasn’t unexpected. The Hochevar comparison is a good one in that it appears looking back that the layoff by going the Indy league route can really hurt a pitchers’ development. We are still talking about 21 year olds who have adjustments to make even if they are successful college pitchers. Hochevar’s fastball was around 88-89 in AA after he signed and now he’s up where people saw him at Tennessee in is Sophomore year, 93-95. I don’t know what Crow’s problem is, but if it’s the fastball velo, I can guess why. Most Royals fans already wrote this year off as just catching up and getting back into shape. It’s one of the reasons I personally disagreed with the pick. Imagine if they had taken Mike Trout as was reported they would do weeks before the draft. Hosmer, Trout, Moustakas, Myers would have been a nice set of offensive prospects.

Boxkutter
Guest
Boxkutter
6 years 2 months ago

“Crow spent most of the last few years not playing baseball”

Where did you get that from? Crow has played baseball every season since leaving high school. He played three years at Missouri, then last year in the Independent League (granted, only 17 innings last season) and is now in the minor leagues. He has not taken a single season off, and with the exception of last year, he has pitched a full workload every season.

jahowa
Guest
jahowa
6 years 2 months ago

Could this comparison also be based on the fact that they both pitched for the same independant league team, the Ft. Worth Cats, while holding out, or is it just a coincidence?

Zaida Odam
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

However, as bad as this sounds, if you know the “tricks of the trade” as it were, youll come out not half as bad as you expected. Age & Gender… Firstly, if your young, your going to get shafted. By young i mean under 25.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7
Guest
Sec 204 Row H Seat 7
6 years 2 months ago

NATS’ fans have forgotten about Crow too. It seems Zack and TQC are somewhat ticked about the NATS current record and are hoping (predicting) the worse. But back to the main topic, Crow would have been further in his career (no wasted two seasons) and better off (my opinion) if he signed with the NATS. But good luck to him in KC.

Zack
Guest
Zack
6 years 2 months ago

You call it predicting the worse, I call it being realistic.

Tell me why you have confidence in Livan Hernandez, Scott Olsen, and Atilano? I made my argument, why dont you make yours.

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