The development path of Tigers pitching prospect Casey Crosby has been a long one. While Crosby is still only 24 years old, it seems like he has been in the organization forever. Drafted out of high school in 2007 in the 5th round, Crosby was considered a very good athlete and was talked out of going to college to the University of Illinois, instead signing for a well above slot bonus. At the time, I for one considered it a worthwhile gamble. After all, there isn’t many hard throwing lefties that stand 6’5″ with athleticism. There was a lot of promise in that left arm of Crosby’s.
Six years later, we are still waiting on that promise to be delivered.
Part of that isn’t exactly Crosby’s fault. You see, the Tigers have had to be patient with the talented left-hander due to a multitude of injuries that have nagged Crosby over the years. There has been more than one elbow issue, and some complications that have arrived from those. Crosby literally hasn’t had the opportunity to pitch consistently for a couple of years in a row until 2011-12, undoubtedly stunting his development to some extent. It has allowed him some latitude when people were evaluating him this past season.
After a couple of consecutive seasons on the mound, it’s time for Crosby to start showing some signs of improvement.
One thing is clear when watching Casey Crosby. He is very talented. Armed with a fastball that moves, Crosby can run his four seamer up to the mid 90’s, but sits more comfortably around 91-92. He has a hard slider/cutter that has nasty biting action inside to right handed hitters. Crosby also owns a curve ball and a change up as well. The four pitch repertoire is there to be an effective starter.
The problem? Casey Crosby can’t seem to throw enough strikes. And not just strikes, but quality strikes that show some level of command of all of his arsenal.
That certainly isn’t a problem that is taken lightly for a pitcher. We’ve seen with fellow Tigers prospect Andy Oliver that “stuff” can only take somebody so far. To be successful in the major leagues, a pitcher has to be able to mix his pitches, the very threat of being able to throw a change in a fastball count is an important weapon. Usually with tall pitchers, there is some difficulty with repeating mechanics, and while Crosby has had some mechanical issues in the past, he has worked hard to make them better. It’s something the Tigers believed wouldn’t be an issue given Crosby’s athleticism, but he still lacks consistency in his delivery.
His lack of command is what did Crosby in when he got his first cup of coffee in the big leagues this past season. Crosby got himself a three start audition this past summer, and many of us wanted him to do well very badly. He managed to only go 12.1 innings, and walked 11 batters in that span. It’s not just the walks, it’s getting behind major league hitters and making it obvious that he is going to have to come in with a fastball. Batters hit .313 against Crosby at the big league level.
Still, it was such a small sample, and Crosby is likely to get another opportunity to show his stuff in spring training. His arm strength alone requires he continue to get more chances. One positive that Crosby did show in his cup of coffee this past summer was that he struck out nine batters in his 12 innings. The ability to get major leaguers out is there.
It is way too early to give up on Crosby, but he needs to work on some things this off-season. Well, he really needs to work on finding a way to throw strikes. Otherwise, he may end up like his fellow talented lefty prospect (Oliver), and end up in the bullpen. Ultimately, that might end up being the best role for Crosby, but I would still like to see him end up as a starter.
Either way, 2013 is a big year for Crosby. It’s time to tap into the talent that the Tigers saw when they drafted him in 2007. If he doesn’t find a way to start throwing more strikes, it could define his role going forward and effect his ultimate future earning potential. For his personal well being it’s essential.
For the Tigers, it would be nice to have another starting pitcher that they could turn to and count on when injuries arise.