As those of you who follow me on Twitter (@jazayerli) know, my initial reaction to the Aaron Crow was, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. This wasn’t a reflection on Crow so much as it was a reflection on Grant Green, who thanks to the Pirates’ late decision to go cheap yet again and select Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez – probably the 20th-best player in the draft – at #4, the tumblers fell into place for Green to be available at #12.
The Royals selected Crow instead, and as MLB Network cut to commercial they gave us a look-in at the A’s war room, and it seemed like every person in that room had a big sh*t-eating grin on his face. Knowing exactly why those jerks looked so smug – and sure enough, the A’s took Green with the #13 pick – only made me more upset.
But then I started getting feedback from people in the industry who know a lot more about this stuff than I do, and started to warm up to the pick. Keith Law, ESPN’s draft guru, wrote me, “I don’t see how you can complain about that one!” Law uses exclamation points even more rarely than he praises the Royals, so that was something. Law had Crow as the 5th-best player in the draft, and Green at just #13. Law isn’t afraid to voice scouting opinions that differ from the consensus – last year, he was maybe the only prospect maven in the world who thought that Pedro Alvarez was overrated, and that sentiment looks pretty smart at the moment. But Law isn’t the only draft expert who ranked Crow more highly than Green; Baseball
Green’s strengths are obvious: he’s a polished college hitter who will be in the majors soon, and he gives you a good bat at a premium defensive position – a position the Royals have a particularly strong need to fill. But he’s not perfect. He hit just four home runs this season, and nine last year – while he hit for power in the wood-bat Cape Cod League, it’s not clear how much power he’ll have in the majors. A guy who hits .280 with 20 homers is a star at shortstop; a guy who hits .280 with 12 homers is just a good player.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, there is a legitimate difference of opinions from scouts on how well he can play shortstop. Some feel he’ll be an average defensive player with no issues; some think he’ll be below average but playable; some think he’ll have to move off the position entirely. This is not a trivial concern for the Royals. If Green can handle shortstop, he fills a huge need. If he can’t, then he’s a third baseman or a second baseman, two positions where the Royals already have more than enough options as it is. If the Royals fall into the camp of people who think that he can’t play shortstop, then it would be hard for them to justify taking Green.
Still, I think that all things equal, the Royals should take the player at a position of need. But clearly the Royals did not feel that all things were equal between Green and Crow, and took the pitcher even though they had bigger needs elsewhere.
I can respect that. It’s easier to respect that decision when you consider that aside from Green, Crow was the best player on the board when the Royals picked. Looking at the three draft lists (BA, Law, Goldstein), the only players ranked higher than Crow who were still available were Tanner Scheppers (on two lists), Alex White (on one), and Kyle Gibson (on one). Gibson’s stress fracture manifested itself after he showed up 4th on BA’s list, and Scheppers is coming off a shoulder injury and Will Carroll is scared to death of him. BA had White 6th and Crow 7th, but Goldstein had White 14th and Law had him 10th. If you were to put together a Wisdom of Crowds-style draft list, then Crow was absolutely the right pick.
Beyond the pure talent considerations, there’s a lot to like with this pick. Crow has been off the radar this year because, having failed to sign with the Nationals last year as the #9 pick, he didn’t pitch for anyone this year until starting his season with the Fort Worth Cats a month ago. A year ago, he was the best right-handed pitcher in college, with a 43-inning scoreless streak for Mizzou (yes, yes, not Missou, I get it, thanks everyone.) He didn’t sign with the Nationals, but this is one of those rare cases where you can blame the team as much as the player – the final negotiations had Crow wanting $4 million, the Nationals offering $3.5 million, but the lack of dialogue between the two sides until the last moment sank the negotiations. Aaron Crow has maintained the Hendricks brothers as his adviser. The Nationals, you might have noticed, have declined to maintain the services of Jim Bowden. I wouldn’t hold Crow’s decision to sit out a year against him that much. (Maybe he was worried that Bowden was going to skim some of his bonus.)
The comparisons between Crow and Luke Hochevar are too easy to make; both pitchers didn’t sign as college juniors, went the indy ball route and signed with
The thing is, on pure stuff Crow might actually have a slight edge on Hochevar. Hochevar had better sink on his pitches, but Crow’s velocity is a tick better. Both rely on sliders as out pitches; it will be interesting to see whether the Royals force Crow to emphasize his curveball during his development as they did with Cool Hand.
Also, the fact that Crow went to college in Missouri and high school in Kansas gets back to the idea of knowing your backyard better than anyone else. Presumably the Royals have a better feel for Crow - his family, his work ethic, his health record - than most teams do. If they don't, they're doing something wrong.
Also keep in mind that if you’re still a believer in Project 2010 – and given the way the Royals are playing, I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t – then Crow has the ability to be ready for a rotation spot as soon as this time next year. He’ll be the best pitching prospect in the organization the minute he signs. He’s not young – he’ll be
I know it appears that the Royals have five quality starters already in their rotation, but even if they all maintain their effectiveness, the odds that all five starters will be off the DL a year from now is probably 50/50 at best. You can never have too much pitching.
What I like best about this pick is that the Royals drafted a signable player without skimping on quality at all. Crow was only available because so many teams ahead of the Royals drafted inferior talents to save money - the Pirates at #4, the Orioles at #5, the Braves at #7, and the Nationals at #10. The
This is important, because what elevated the first day of the draft from good to very good was the decision to take
And remember, last year the Royals spent $6 million on Eric Hosmer alone. If Crow gets $3.5 million and Myers gets, say, $1.5 million, they’ve still spent less on both of them than they did on Hosmer. Not to mention the money spent on their supplemental first-rounder and second-rounder last year; there should still be plenty of money left over for the international signing season.
The Royals started the second day of the draft by taking Chris Dwyer, a left-handed pitcher out of Clemson who turned
The draft won’t finish up until tomorrow; as I write this they’re in the 12th round, and the Royals draft has become remarkable for its reliance on pitching, and not the high school arms you’d expect to see. Of the Royals’ first 11 picks, two were catchers, one was a high school first baseman – and the other eight were all college pitchers. That’s just bizarre, but in a draft which everyone says is very weak in hitters, you have to admire the Royals’ decision to draft the guys they like best and figure out where to put them all later.
Ultimately, I’d give this draft a B at this point, which is an awfully strong grade given the lack of a second-round pick. Maybe the Royals didn’t select the guy I wanted them to pick. But they selected the guy that they wanted to pick, not the guy they settled for in order to save money, and ultimately that’s all you can ask for.