Coming out of the 2022 Draft, perhaps no prospect offered as much intrigue and upside as Reggie Crawford, a two-way player from the University of Connecticut who was recovering from major injury when the Giants snagged him with the last pick of the first round, signing him for a slightly
Coming out of the 2022 Draft, perhaps no prospect offered as much intrigue and upside as Reggie Crawford, a two-way player from the University of Connecticut who was recovering from major injury when the Giants snagged him with the last pick of the first round, signing him for a slightly under-slot $2,297,500.
Every day, Shohei Ohtani makes every organization tantalize over the idea of a two-way star, simply by proving that being one is indeed possible in the modern game. But the fact remains that no big league team has yet to develop one. For prospects like Crawford, their currency is in their boundless potential; their paths to fulfilling it, meanwhile, are often arduous, improbable, incredibly difficult to achieve in practice.
So it is notable when that type of potential isn’t only theoretical but plain to see, like when Crawford followed up his pro pitching debut with the first home run of his professional career in Single-A San Jose’s 9-4 win over Visalia on Friday. Two days before Crawford would log his fourth outing of the season on the mound in Sunday's 3-2 loss to Visalia, the Giants' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline cranked an opposite-field game-tying two-run homer as San Jose’s designated hitter. Thus proving what scouts long salivated over Crawford about ahead of the 2022 Draft, despite limited collegiate experience on either the mound: he can do it on both ends.
Betting on that potential, however, became a riskier proposition as last summer’s Draft approached. Though he topped the Big East Conference with 13 homers in ’21, scouts liked Crawford more as a pitcher. Then injuries limited him to only 20 1/3 innings on the mound in three years of college (including summer ball), and he missed the entire 2022 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. When he made his pitching debut for San Jose on May 27, it marked Crawford’s first time pitching in a competitive games since the summer of 2021.
“He’s as professional as it gets,” San Jose pitching coach Dan Runzler said. “To do multiple things - hit and pitch - it's pretty unique."
As such, the Giants are handling the 22-year-old Crawford with caution early in his career. But the results and stuff have both been there in a small sample, with Crawford’s fastball returning to its previous mid-to-high 90s velocity in his first four outings. He’s also racked up 13 strikeouts without a walk and allowed five earned runs on eight hits in his first 7 1/3 professional innings, including a two-inning start Sunday.
In between he’s made three offensive starts, all at designated hitter. He has not yet hit in the games he’s pitched.
That’s where many believe Crawford’s future lays if the two-way experiment doesn’t work out. While recent two-way prospects like Brendan McKay lack Crawford’s explosive tools, there are plenty of examples of such experiments not working out, and countless reasons why they don’t. Strictly on the mound, Crawford’s future is easier to project: few lefties in the ’22 Draft could match his pair of power pitches, with a high-spin fastball that touches triple-digits and a wipeout slider that can reach the high-80s and overwhelm hitters. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he’s more athletic than most pitchers and profiles well either on the mound or at first base.
“It's electric, the fastball, the power on it," Runzler said. "It's a really smooth, effortless delivery that creates a lot of power. It's a good sharp, hard curveball, with some good feel for a changeup as well that's developing. With a guy who's missed as much time as he has, it's just about getting the reps, getting back out there, seeing competition, kind of getting back to sequencing his mix against hitters and stuff like that. And he absolutely pounds the strike zone, which is just a huge thing to begin with, for a guy that size, and for as much time as he missed. He's extremely aggressive in the zone, which is something that's pretty unique in my mind.”
Whether it works out on the mound will depend on how well Crawford can build up his workload post-surgery and how successful he is in adding a second off speed pitch and refining his command. But all of that will be sorted out in time. For now, Crawford is healthy again. And for the prospect with one of the highest ceilings in the Minors, the sky is the limit.
“There's a lot of weight on his shoulders, but with the character and the high makeup of Reggie, I have no doubts that he can handle this huge task that he has,” Runzler said. “It's because of the extreme talent he is. I haven't been around anything like this. So I'm kind of learning with him and watching him do it. But it's extremely impressive.”
Joe Trezza is an contributor for MiLB.com.