Tuesday, February 28, 2012

OTF Top 30: No. 8, Kyle Crick, RHP

No. 8: Kyle Crick, right-handed pitcher

Age: 19
Drafted: 16th pick in the Supplemental First Round (49th overall) in the 2011 MLB Draft
High School: Sherman High School (Texas)
2011 Regular Season numbers: 7 games, 7.0 innings pitched, 9 hits allowed, 8 runs allowed, 8 walks, 8 strikeouts, 6.43 ERA, 2.43 WHIP, 4.77 FIP, 1.00 BB/K ratio (Arizona Rookie League).
2011 Fall/Winter League numbers: None

Why you should know about Crick in 2012:

A heralded prep arm in a prep-heavy pitching class in the 2011 draft, Crick went to the Giants' slot at No. 49. The pick was heralded by some analysts, including  ESPN's Keith Law, who gave the Giants high marks for the selection (and remember, he lambasted the Joe Panik pick in the first round). Considering how thin the pitching ranks are with the graduation Madison Bumgarner in 2010 and the trade of Zack Wheeler in 2011, Crick has the most potential out of any current pitching prospect in the Giants system. Of course, Crick is still very young and only pitched seven innings in a limited Rookie League campaign in 2011. While the brief stint in the AZL didn't impress statistically, he's still a projectable pitcher with a high ceiling and a lot of time for development. If he can take to the Giants' pitching instruction (and all signs point that he will), then he will certainly be on a lot of baseball analysts' radar in 2013.

What are Crick's Strengths as a Prospect?

The reports on Crick prior to the 2011 draft were very stellar, as John Klima of the Baseball Prospect Report (formerly Baseball Beginnings) had a lot of sterling things to say about Cricks' performances in high school (he saw him in person twice). At the time, Crick was committed to go and play ball at TCU, but Klima pointed out at the time that he had the potential to be a very high draft pick in the 2011 draft. Here's what Klima said in his scouting report:

"I had a brief look at Texas right-hander Kyle Crick over the summer. I liked him. Yes, I did. So did TCU, who scooped some of the other Texas schools to land his commitment. I have a sneaky feeling that the draft might play a role for this guy, but as time and experience have taught us, you never know which way a guy goes until after the dust settles...

Strengths: FB 89-93, comfortable 90-92, hard downhill with tail, heavy ball. Can reach back for a little more and elevate when needed. SL 81-83 with hard bite, go-to weapon. Hard and late. Split 81 with hard drop. Straight CHG 80-81, assume those weren’t flat sliders, secondary SL 72-73 with drop."

Klima gave him an OFP of 54, with his fastball and slider earning 50/65 and 40/55 grades respectively. His control was a bit of concern in Klima's reports, as he only graded it a 30/55, but Klima was very high on Crick's mechanics, noting that his "arm smooth through back, body sometimes out in front of arm, arm catches up, gets extension and balanced landings."

For the most part, a lot of the reports on Crick's were very similar to Klima's. Crick pretty much slipped to the Giants' supplemental slot due to a bevy of talented pitching going in the first round (including prep arms Henry Owens, Joe Ross and Robert Stephenson). Crick dominated in high school, going 7-2 with a 1.11 ERA in 13 starts as a senior, and the remarks he got from his high school coach were also glowing as well:

"He's got the most powerful arm I've ever coached," Senato told the Texas Herald Democrat. "He's got a lot of upside -- he's not a polished product at all. His changeup's going to be better, and he's got more velocity in his arm. He can get to 97 or 98 mph at some point."

Of course, high school numbers and coaches' remarks always have to be taken with a grain of salt (what is his coach going to say? "Oh he sucks! The Giants made a huge mistake!"), but Crick seems to be a prospect with real potential. Even if you don't look at the velocity and grades on his pitches, his size alone (six-foot, three inches, 225 pounds) makes him an interesting prospect and gives him potential for a lot of velocity. And when you watch him on tape, there is a lot to like about his pitching motion, as he has a smooth delivery and seems to hide the ball well.

Furthermore, the fact that Crick got some playing experience after signing was a huge plus in his favor. While it wasn't the best stint, it was more professional experience than what other draft picks Andrew Susac or Ricky Oropesa or Josh Osich garnered last year (they had none). The exposure to professional pitching, hitting and instruction from last year's stint undoubtedly will make it a smoother transition for him in 2012, especially considering all the "draft hoopla" has worn off since his stint.

Where might Crick struggle?

Crick is years away from reaching his peak, and his stint in the Arizona Rookie League showed that. He struggled with control and command, as he gave up eight walks, nine hits and eight runs in seven innings of work in Arizona. Of course, he was just 18 years old and just coming off signing a $900 K signing bonus, so it is likely that he may have either been a little distracted or overwhelmed when he made his professional debut in 2011.

Still, Crick's control is always going to be an issue. As noted before, it was one of his lower grades in Klima's scouting report, and if he wants to have a career as a starting pitcher, he needs to be able to get those issues resolved, even if it is at a gradual pace. If he continues to walk hitters at the high rate he displayed in the AZL last year, then his career as a starter might be short, which in turn, would be a massive hit to his status as a prospect.

While Crick has a solid fastball and slider combination, he still needs work on his third and fourth pitches. He does sport a change and split finger fastball, but they haven't graded out as impressive pitches by any stretch of the imagination. With instruction, I am hopeful that he'll be able to hone a third pitch and at least make a fourth pitch average or slightly below. That being said, that might take a couple of seasons before we see the result of that instruction pay off, especially considering it will be his first full year as a professional in 2012, and he will just be learning how to pitch in general.

One the main weaknesses that has been noted about Crick is his strength and stamina as a pitcher, as it was a bit of a question mark in high school. While his stamina wasn't noted as poor by any measure, he only pitched 13 games in high school, so he has to get acclimated quickly to a full professional season. With his size and already solid frame (225 pounds), his conditioning will be important. If he doesn't stay in shape, it won't be hard to see his frame get out of control and hurt his stamina. While I think he's still young enough to stay in the current shape he's in, and I think management will keep a close eye on Crick (simply due to their investment in him). A pitcher's condition and stamina are always important aspects to keep tabs on, especially as they are breaking into the professional level and getting accustomed to the habits it takes to be a Major League pitcher (let's just say very few pitchers can get away with the Livan Hernandez Diet Plan).

Grades on Crick's tools:

Fastball: 17/20 (Solid now, but with the potential to grade much higher as he gets older and more developed as a pitcher. Currently his fastball goes in the 89-93 MPH range and comfortably in the 90-92 MPH range according to Klima. But, as noted before, his size gives him room for potential, as it could sit in the 93-95 MPH range in the next year or two.)
Slider: 17/20 (His best secondary pitch, Crick's slider ranges from 81-83 MPH and has good movement and a hard bite, according to Klima. If his fastball continues to keep or gain velocity, then I could see this pitch being even more effective in the future.)
Changeup/Split Finger: 13/20 (The reports are nothing special on these two pitches. His changeup, according to reports, is 80-81 MPH but is pretty straight. As for his split, it has a hard drop and sits in the 81 MPH range. If he wants to hold his own as a starting pitcher prospect, he's going to need to develop one or even both of these pitches.)
Mechanics: 17/20 (Klima was high on his mechanics, and on tape, his delivery and motion look pretty clean. He has fluid movement and moves quickly to the plate. Also, I like the way his motion disguises the ball, which only makes things look faster and harder to hit for batters. I bet there will be some tweaks done by the pitching staffs in the Giants organization, but Crick gives them a solid foundation to work with).
Command/Control: 13/20 (Klima noted that he had some work to do with his control, and his Rookie League stats showed that. Furthermore, he learned quickly that he isn't simply going to dominate hitters as easily as he did in Texas High School ball. I think his struggles with command and control are correctable, but he has a lot to work on in 2012.)
Ceiling: 17/20 (With the combination of his fastball/power slider combo, Crick already profiles as a solid Major League pitcher. Whether or not he will become a mainstay in the Giants' rotation depends on how well he develops his third and fourth pitches. If he that development happens, he could be a starting pitcher with a No. 2 ceiling. If not, then he's probably destined for the bullpen.)
Health/Makeup/Intangibles: 18/20 (He's gotten high remarks from the organization (John Barr was very high on Crick after they drafted him) as well as from the scouting community, and he signed early enough to at least get some work in the Rookie League before the 2011 season ended. Crick still has a long road to go as a prospect, and as we have seen in the past, the road of a pitching prospect is often an unpredictable one. But right now, it seems like Crick is on the right path for success.)

Overall Grade: B-
Projection: Starting Major League pitcher. Best case: No. 2 starter. Worst case: Middle innings reliever.

Summary: I'm conservative with the Crick grade because a.) He's barely out of high school and b.) his Rookie League stint wasn't all the impressive (though it was a VERY small sample). That being said, I do think Crick can progress to be a B or B+ pitching prospect in the near future. He sports impressive size and tools, and the Giants have an excellent track record when it comes to developing pitching in their minor league system. Crick has the kind of raw skills and size that Matt Cain sported when he was drafted out of high school in the 2002 draft. Am I saying he's going to be a carbon copy of Cain? Of course not, but he has that potential, and if he pans out and develops in the Minors, then I think he could project to be a Cain-esque pitcher for the Giants in the future.

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