02 June 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Aaron Crow)

Introducing Aaron Crow

The University of Missouri right-hander forced himself into top 10 consideration last summer, leading the Cape Cod League with a 0.67 ERA while striking out 36 and walking 9. His fastball velocity jumped up to the 93-96 mph range (up from 84-86 when he arrived at Missouri) and occasionally touched 98, and at the season's conclusion he was awarded the Robert A. McNeese award given to the top prospect as selected by the scouts. Riding high into 2008, questions remained as to whether his new-found velocity, and dominance, would hold up over the course of an entire season. So how did his season shake out, and should Baltimore consider him at 1:4 if available?

The Numbers

Statistics (National Ranking out of 500 Ranked)
Innings Pitched – 78 (Not Available)
Strikeouts – 117 (6)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings – 10.71 (20)
Walks – 38 (Not Available)
Walks Per 9 Innings – 3.02 (371)
Hits Per 9 Innings – 7.51 (60)
Earned Run Average – 2.56 (38)
Wins – 12 (1)

Crow met expectations as the nation's wins leader and ranking in the top 10 in strikeouts. Not only did he finish with an ERA just over 2.50, but his season included a scoreless streak of 43 innings, as well as 4 complete game shut-outs. While he faded a bit after the streak, he came on strong in the final week of the season and through the Big 12 Tournament and Regionals this past weekend. The red flag here is walks. Given his strong showing in H/9 and SO/9, it's a bit troubling to see Crow average over 3 BB/9 IP (370 pitchers ranking ahead of him).

The Frame

Crow is not a big body, sizing in at 6'2 and 195 pounds. There are concerns that his body will not hold up over the course of a Major League season, making him better suited for relief work. He primarily generates his velocity through arm speed.

Scouting: Film

Weight Transfer – Crow is very clean in his weight transfer. His motion is compact, with a still head and upper-body. His lower half does the bulk of the lifting in getting him from knee raise to plant, as it should. He drives well off his back leg and hips and glove hand stay closed through the motion, beginning to open as he plants his left foot. The hips and glove lead the upper half of his body, and finally his arm with all the momentum directed towards the plate. He keeps his upper-body at a 90 degree angle, allowing him to throw on a hard downward plane.

Arm Action – Crow's red flag is a cocking of the throwing arm as he begins towards home plate. You can see from the video that his wrist curls up towards the elbow as he raises his arm behind his body. The issue here is two-fold. First, he is expending energy during this muscle flex which in turn cannot be used towards his delivery. Second, he is flexing his wrist and placing stress on the tendons in his elbow. While this may not be a fatal flaw, it dramatically increases the likelihood that he will eventually run into elbow problems and, perhaps, Tommy John surgery. This also plays a part in a slight drag in his delivery. He comes with a 3/4 delivery.

Follow-Through – Perhaps the best aspect of his motion is the follow-through. His balance is centered, finishing directly towards home. His arm motion is free and clean, coming across his body with almost no recoil at all. This will minimize potential stress on the arm, as well as loss in velocity.

Pace – From both the windup and the stretch, Crow drags ever so slightly during his arm cock, which slows his delivery a bit. His arm speed and follow-through are solid enough to mitigate the ill effects of this drag, and he does not seem to lose velocity. Most importantly, aside from his arm cock, he isn't expending extra energy, and is therefor maximizing his momentum towards the plate.

Motion Grade – B+ – Crow has solid mechanics, an above-average weight transfer and a clean follow-through. Though his arm drags a bit, and his arm cock is potentially problematic, neither has had a demonstrable negative effect as of yet. If he can stay healthy, there should be very little tinkering required in order to get him Major League ready from a mechanics standpoint.

Crow's calling card is his low- to mid-90s plus-fastball that touches 98 mph and comes in with good boring (sink) action. He brings it from a 3/4 arm slot and throws it effectively to both sides of the plate. His command in the zone is hit and miss, but at this point in his career he is simply throwing it by everyone. His slider is a second plus-pitch that he throws out of an almost identical arm slot. This makes the pitch deceptive by making pitch ID difficult for the hitter. His command is somewhat lacking with the slider, but he has enough feel for it to make it an effective second offering right now. His changeup has the potential to be a solid third pitch, but he has not needed it enough as of yet to develop it. For now, it is a good "show me" pitch that he struggles to command.

Arsenal Grade – A
Command Grade – B

Is Crow Worthy of 1:4?

A strong finish to the season has re-established Crow as the top right-hander in the draft. While there are concerns as to his durability and future elbow problems, it is impossible to ignore his electric stuff. Like former teammate Max Scherzer, he could move quickly to the Majors and pitch out of a big league bullpen by his second year. To be an effective starter, however, he will need to hone his command and commit to establishing his changeup as a legitimate third pitch. Whichever team drafts him would be wise to bring him along slowly, given his size and the potential for arm troubles. His upside may top Scherzer if he can stay healthy -- a big "if".

Prospect Grade – B+
Suggested Draft Slot – 5-8
1:4 Recommendation – Consider drafting

Current Draft Board

1. Pedro Alvarez (3B) Vanderbilt University
2. Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin High School (Georgia)
3. Buster Posey (C) Florida State University
4. Justin Smoak (1B) University of South Carolina
5. Aaron Crow (SP) University of Missouri
6. Gordon Beckham (SS) University of Georgia

Draft Preview Schedule

6/2 pm Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego
6/3 am Potential Targets for Rounds 2-3
6/3 pm Potential Targets for Rounds 4-5
6/4 Mail Bag and Final War-Room Review
6/5 Camden Depot Shadow Draft and Live Draft Coverage

Don't forget to keep the great questions coming for this Wednesday's Mailbag.

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