Eating (Aaron) Crow

If, during Spring Training, you predicted Aaron Crow would make the Kansas City Royals 25 man roster, it’s likely people would have laughed at you. After all, he was coming off a poor season at Double A; in which he posted a 5.66 ERA and a less than spectacular 4.74 xFIP. If, once he made the team, you predicted he would be the Royals best reliever two months into the season, people would have had you committed to an institution. Well, we’re two months into the season and it looks like you should be the newest member of Mensa. Aaron Crow has already far surpassed expectations in his rookie season. Can he continue his dominance going forward, or does his current performance scream small sample size fluke?

The problem with evaluating Crow is his interesting path to the big leagues. Crow was a highly regarded prospect entering the 2008 draft. He did not sign, however, and chose to re-enter the draft the following season. Despite the layoff, the Royals selected Crow with the 12th overall selection in the 2009 draft.

Unfortunately, the time away from baseball seemed to hurt Crow’s development. Though he actually performed well at his first stop in the minors, *As reader Yirmiyahu pointed out in the comments, Double A was Crow’s first stop. He was demoted due to his poor performance. Crow really struggled upon reaching Double A. Crow’s strikeout rate plummeted from 10.84 to 6.79 following the promotion, while his walk rate soared to an unsightly 4.45. Crow was so bad in Double A that the Royals actually sent him down to work out his issues. Based on that performance, it seemed highly unlikely that Crow would be pitching in the majors this season; let alone pitching this well.

Yet somehow, the 24 year old pitcher has all of his doubters eating crow this season.*

After a conversion to the bullpen, Crow has relied on mainly his fastball and slider to keep hitters off balance. He also flashes a curve, but has used it pretty sparingly this season. While his 95 mph heater has been effective, Crow’s slider has been his strongest weapon this season.

According to Pitch Type Values, Crow’s slider has been worth 4.10 runs above average; good for seventh among all relievers with at least 20 innings pitched. Due to the effectiveness of his two-pitch mix, Crow has struck out nearly a batter per inning in his rookie season.

While we only have 27.0 innings of major league performance to look at, it looks as if Crow can continue his strong performance as the season progresses. While his 1.33 ERA and left on base percentage are due for some regression, Crow still carries a 2.95 FIP and a 2.91 xFIP.

The Kansas City Royals have received a ton of criticism for mishandling prospects once they reach the major leagues. In the case of Crow, the Royals deserve credit for accurately evaluating what they had. Crow’s conversion to the bullpen has been a huge boost for the Royals this season. If his current performance is any indication, the Royals may have stumbled upon one of the best relievers in baseball for years to come. For a guy whose major league future was in doubt after last season, his performance this year deserves some big-time recognition.

*That’s the title of the article. Get it?

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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

28 Responses to “Eating (Aaron) Crow”

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  1. ppabich says:

    I’m not a Royals fan, but damn, I hope their farm system turns out. They have talent at every single position on the field, and a plethora of pitching. If they fail, it will never happen for the Royals.

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    • Brandon says:

      As a Red Sox fan, I hope it does too, so we can sign all these guys when they hit free agency.

      Sad when your team starts to emulate the most perverse mannerisms of your most hated rival…

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  2. PatsNats28 says:

    He’s also dating Ke$ha lol

    But yeah, not a huge fan of his after he didn’t sign with us. We got Storen out of it though, so it’s cool (although SP usually > RP)

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  3. Yirmiyahu says:

    “Though he actually performed well at his first stop in the minors, Crow really struggled upon reaching Double A. Crow’s strikeout rate plummeted from 10.84 to 6.79 following the promotion, while his walk rate soared to an unsightly 4.45.”

    Correction. AA was his first stop in the minors. There was never a promotion, only a demotion.

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  4. Eric says:

    If you were even talking about Aaron crow in the preseason you have too much time on your hands. Unless you work for the organization I guess.

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  5. Lexington says:

    It shows that we know nothing
    We can’t predict any change

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    • Will says:

      Yea, because no failed starter has ever done well as a max-effort/smaller repertoire guy in relief.


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      • CircleChange11 says:

        That’s what I was going to say. The most relevant phrase from the articles “after conversion to the bullpen”.

        2-pitch pitchers are rarely suited for the starting role.

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  6. dan heit says:

    Percentage of chance question – aaron crow gets some flavor of interim closer label / opportunity if Soria blows his next opportunity.

    Percentage of chance question – Soria gets dealt this season to another team and crow gets the closer role


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    • UZR is a Joke says:

      100%…Yost just said as much.

      Seriously, how hard would you have been ridiculed if you said during the spring the Crow would be the closer by June with Soria still on the team? It’s inconceivable.

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  7. Elephants in the room says:

    95.2 LOB%
    .246 BABIP

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      I don’t think they’re elephants in the room if they’re openly acknowledged:
      “While his 1.33 ERA and left on base percentage are due for some regression, Crow still carries a 2.95 FIP and a 2.91 xFIP.”

      8.67 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9, 52.9% GB%

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    • Josh says:

      Yes but those are factored into his FIP and xFIP which both sit under 3 so he’s still been quite effective.

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  8. JoeyPajamas says:

    Good piece. Crow’s a pimp, especially since he’s dating Ke$ha. Good call on KC’s part in doing what they’ve done with the guy.

    As some noted above, it definitely wouldn’t be a bad idea to see what kind of haul Soria could bring in if Crow continues to perform at an elite level. Seems like it has Texas written all over it.

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  9. Eric says:

    Buy super-low time on Soria? Or is he injured?

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  10. Antonio Bananas says:

    I’m still dissappointed in him. I followed him at Mizzou his senior year when he was ridiculous. Pretty sure he was consistently rated the top or number 2 pitcher coming into the draft that year. So to me, a number 1/2 pitching prospect should have a ceiling of an ace and a floor of a solid back of the rotation guy. He’s a reliever. If 1/4 batters get a hit (.250 league average average I’m guessing), then you pretty much always have a decent shot at being effective if you’re any good at all.

    That said, I’m happy that he’s found a role and is really doing well. As a closer he’ll get more exposure and hopefully succeed. Who knows where he goes from here. Maybe he dominates and then next year we’re talking about him like Neftali Feliz this year starter/closer. Or maybe he shows promise, then goes to shit like so many pitchers do.

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  11. Antonio Bananas says:

    His senior year stats are 13-0 in 15 starts, 2.35 ERA, 107 IP, 10.7 k/9, 3.2 bb/9. He has the goods. Maybe he’s just now getting back into it considering he didn’t pitch much in 2009.

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  12. LionoftheSenate says:

    Scouts>Stats is the new Darwin>Jesus

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  13. Steve Balboni says:

    nicknames: Crow Royal, Crow-cutioner, Crow Hogan, Murderer’s Crow (easy, a flock of crows = murder), Mannegish?

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