At the Park: Scouting Jonathon Crawford

Between last week's Midwest League All-Star game and the corresponding series at Fifth Third Ballpark, James Chipman got to see last year's first rounder pitch twice in just a few days. Get the scouting details of how he looked in his pair of appearances.

Jonathon Crawford
22-year-old Right-handed Starting Pitcher
Class-A West Michigan
Date: 6/21/14

Performance:
6/21/14: 5 IP 3ER 6H 2BB 1K
6/17/14 (MWL All-Star Game): 1 IP 1ER 1H 2BB

Body: Borderline ideal pitchers body: 6'2" 205 pounds; average muscle definition and strength throughout upper body; decent strength throughout core and legs; not entirely maxed out physically but close.

Mechanics: Starts motion at the waist, rocks, drives and fires; delivery features medium effort to the plate; occasionally fell hard first-base side; delivery occasionally got stiff and clunky; landings varied at times; definitely not as polished as I anticipated; average deception; quick arm action; 3/4 arm slot; kept arm arm slot fairly well regardless of the offering; command grade sat between fringe-average to average resulting in numerous ABs where he was battling from behind in the count. Was well-barreled a bit too much for me. For what it's worth: Crawford was throwing on short rest, as he participated in the All-Star Game just a few days prior.

Repertoire:

Fastball: 90-93 T95 manipulates movement: 2-seamer (thrown at lower velocity) sinks, running down and away from right-handed batters. 4-seamer has average life, drew several whiffs but got flat up in the zone on occasion.

Changeup: 82-84 straight with occasional fade. Well below-average offering. Lacks conviction and feel. Offering would have to come a long way to be something I'd even grade as fringe-average.

Slider: 84-88 hard tight spin with decent depth; shape varied: some were short, some featured ridiculous two plane break. Thrown to both sides of the plate for strikes and as a chase pitch; drew numerous whiffs. Overall, a deceptive plus-plus offering thrown with conviction and deception. Definitely one of the better sliders I've seen this season.

Overall
I'm bearish on the common consensus of Crawford's mid-rotation ceiling. I have yet to see the flash of the upper-90s velocity that's been advertised. The fastball was also well barreled a bit more than I like--7 of the 9 hard hit/well barreled balls during the outing were fastballs. Regardless, the fastball is a solid 60 grade based purely on velocity; and possibly projectable a grade higher should the advertised higher velocity come to fruition. The slider is without a doubt a plus-plus wipeout, put away offering, but the lack of a projectable third is concerning to me.

Anything is possible, but I honestly believe Crawford has a more realistic future in a late inning relief role. Personally I shy away from labeling him a bulldog like Jake Thompson, but Crawford is a competitor nonetheless and he's poised and in control of his emotions on the mound. The sequencing was a bit predictable lacking the advanced feel for pitching that I expected from a former seasoned top tier college pitcher. He has average makeup and he appeared to be a good teammate. Crawford held runners at an average to below-average rate: I clocked him at 1.31 (best) and (1.47) to the plate with runner(s) aboard. I hate for my report to sound so uninspiring, I'm just not as impressed as I expected to be, and I didn't really have unrealistic lofty expectations either. Widely heralded as the Tigers top prospect prior to the the draft, I'm more impressed with what I've seen from Jake Thompson and it's not even close.


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