Washington Nationals’ Assistant General Manager and VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline described 2017 second round pick Wil Crowe as a real “physical guy” with a “four-pitch mix” and “above average secondary stuff” on the night of the 2017 Draft.
Crowe, 24, had been drafted twice before, both times by the Cleveland Indians, who took him in the 31st Round out of high school in 2013 then tried again in the 21st Round in 2016, but were unable to sign the right-hander, who went (6-5) with a 3.41 ERA in 15 starts for the University of South Carolina as a junior in 2017, striking out 90 batters and walking just 31 before the Nationals made him the 65th overall pick in the 2nd Round and signed him to a $946,500 bonus.
“He was a Friday night guy at South Carolina,” Kline said following the second round in June of 2017.
“The fact that he got to us where we picked, I’m extremely elated, so we had the other guy there that was working his way up the board, but this has always been the guy there, so he’s an ultra-competitive kid, good track record, profiles as a mid-rotation starter with secondary stuff, strike thrower.”
Crowe made nine starts in the Nationals’ system that summer, putting up a 2.96 ERA, four walks and 17 Ks in 24 1⁄3 innings pitched for Washington’s Gulf Coast and New York/Penn League affiliates, and last winter GM Mike Rizzo mentioned the righty as part of the next wave of pitching prospects in the organization who could move up and make an impact in the near future.
In 16 appearances (15 starts) at High-A Potomac in the Nationals’ system this season, Crowe was (11-0) with a 2.69 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 30 walks (3.10 BB/9), and 78 Ks (8.07 K/9) in 87 IP before he was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where he struggled, going (0-5) in five starts and 26 1⁄3 IP with a 6.15 ERA, 6.10 FIP, 16 walks (5.47 BB/9), and 15 Ks (5.13 K/9).
In spite of his struggles after the jump, Crowe was named the Nats’ co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year, with a press release on the award noting that his, “11 wins were tied for the most among Nationals’ farmhands, while his 3.40 ERA ranked fourth among full-season Nationals’ Minor Leaguers. He finished the season ranked as the No. 5 prospect in Washington’s Minor League system according to MLBPipeline.com.”
“It’s a big skill gap difference I think,” Crowe said last weekend at Winterfest when he was asked about the jump from High-A to Double-A. “I think I got really tired at the end of the year, so I guess that goes to training and just getting into that 140-150-inning mark for the first time ever, so just strikes — strike zone was smaller, and guys are approaching you differently than they were in Potomac, so just — getting to see that jump and everything was good for me and lets me know that there’s work [to be done] and I still got to keep going and keep getting ready for next year.”
While the jump was a good experience, Crowe said it was also something of a wake-up call.
“You know it’s coming,” he said, “it just depends how you feel and things, and it just shows you that the next level is different so it was a good experience for sure.”
As for what he’s focused on that will allow him to take the next step?
“I think just mechanically out of the stretch I think I was a little off,” Crowe explained.
“So being as in tune with myself and in my mechanics would be a big thing, and just being more competitive over the zone. I think in Potomac I was able to get away with throwing pitches in the dirt and people swinging at them and in Double-A I wasn’t able to do that, so just being more competitive in the zone and being more refined in my mechanics will help me be able to make that next jump.”
Having Rizzo mention his name last winter, getting named co-Pitcher of the Year, getting an invite to Winterfest... does it feel like he’s getting close to putting himself in a position to go to the next level, whether it’s Triple-A or the majors at some point?
“It just means that everything that I’ve been working for and that I am working for is kind of falling where I wanted to,” Crowe said.
“Invited here, and I had a good year last year, so it just means that what I’m working towards and working for ... I’m on the way there.”