Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Crosby was one of the reasons the Tigers drew the ire of the Commissioner's office in the wake of last year's draft; because he was one of those players the Tigers went over slot to sign. Projected as the top prospect in the state of Illinois entering the draft, Crosby had a strong college commitment and a reportedly high price tag to buy him out of that commitment. The Tigers did their homework to understand the price and what his interest level in signing was, and after a summer of finalizing details, the Tigers signed Crosby for just shy of $750,000. Because of his late signing, Crosby did not make his professional debut in 2007, and in an unfortunate twist, elbow surgery will keep him from debuting as a pro until the 2009 season.
As a senior at Kaneland High School, Crosby was named the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year, while also being named to the All-Area, All-Region, All-Conference, and All-State teams. He was also nominated for the High School All-American Team. A solid 6-2 record was backed by exceptional peripherals; including a 0.88/1.01 line and 92 strikeouts in 63.2 innings. Crosby was also a standout football player at Kaneland, snatching 76 passes as a senior, 19 of them for touchdowns.
Crosby returned to the mound last summer with the GCL Tigers, and though the numbers seem rather pedestrian, it was an extremely successful return that continued into the fall instructional league where he blew away fellow Tiger prospects.
After completing his rehab from elbow surgery, Crosby not only showed an ability to get back on the mound quickly, but he was absolutely filthy upon doing so. During the instructional league, Casey was routinely touching 97 on the gun, and was consistently working at 94-95 from the left side. His fastball has solid late life and it gets on hitters in a hurry from an improving arm action. The command of his fastball is still progressing, but over the last six months he has shown a greater aptitude for finding the zone.
Casey's secondary pitches need work, but show some promise. His breaking ball has good hard bite down in the zone, and he commands it reasonably well. He consistently works the pitch to the right side of the plate in the 83-85 mph range, and has shown an aptitude for burying it on the back foot of right-handers. His change-up lacks movement and command, but he only started toying with the pitch in any serious capacity at the tail end of his high school career. His arm speed had been good in the early stages, which bodes well for his development of the high-70s pitch; a pitch he will need to keep top notch right-handers at bay.
Crosby's mechanics could stand some work; namely softening his front leg a bit and generating additional push off the mound. He uses a lot of arm right now, and must begin to use the leverage generated by his long, wiry frame; all things the organization has been working to improve and he has taken to the changes well. Despite a huge growth spurt between his junior and senior years, Crosby remains well coordinated, repeating his delivery well. He is an outstanding athlete with enormous potential on the field. If he can continue improving his off-speed pitches, he's got number two potential.
Even in the midst of a blazing fastball, Crosby's biggest asset may still be his overall makeup. He has an unrivaled competitive fire, and wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line. At times, he can try to do too much on the field, losing focus of what is in his control, and what is not. His desire to play the game and enthusiasm on the field are evident at all times.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG R
Though you never wish injury on anyone, having Tommy John surgery this early in his career may have actually been a positive in the long run. The rehab time afforded him the luxury of truly refining and working through the kinks in his mechanics, and allowed him to build plenty of additional strength before really being tested in game action. He has been throwing well again this spring, and the injury appears to be squarely in his rear view mirror.
Crosby enters camp in competition for a rotation slot in either of the Tigers two A-ball locations. Though the Tigers pushed Rick Porcello to Lakeland in 2008, there is only a slim chance that they do the same with Crosby in 2009. It is far more likely that he heads north to West Michigan to make his full-season debut, though a promotion to Lakeland wouldn't be out of the question if he is performing well in the Midwest League. Though he has all the tools to become an elite level prospect, there are likely to be some bumps in the road this year as Crosby deals with the rigors of a professional rotation, as well as facing the most advanced hitters of his career.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.