We continue our countdown of top prospects here at The Good Phight, counting backwards from 20 to our top prospect.
Hans Crouse, RHP, 23 years old
Part of the Kyle Gibson/Ian Kennedy/Spencer Howard trade, Crouse made his major league debut for the Phillies in their last home game of 2021 despite having previously made only one start above Double-A. His under-seasoning was perhaps most apparent in his command, as while his three offerings each displayed decent movement, he had difficulty locating any of them. He allowed two home runs — including one on the very first pitch of his big league career — and issued seven walks against just two strikeouts in his seven innings over two starts. Crouse’s colorful, semi-eccentric, heavily-inked (imagine if Mark Fidrych was a Soundcloud rapper) mound presence can range from jovial to ultra-competitive, and everything in between, and he also has a disorienting release. Historically, Crouse has sprinkled shimmies throughout his windup, at times reminiscent of Johnny Cueto, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and quite frankly, Tyra Banks. He only pitched from the stretch in the big leagues and during Fall League looks, so the timing upset has been harder to come by and we’re not sure it’s there anymore. While the Phillies rotation situation makes it likely that Crouse will remain a starter for now, we think major league batters will be better at adapting to his delivery after they’ve seen him, and a multi-inning relief role may be a better fit for funk optimization purposes. He’s also transitioned away from a traditional curveball to a firmer slider/cutter hybrid. That pitch rotates a few hundred rpm slower than his curveball but seemed to give hitters fits in the Fall League.
Jay: 10, Ethan: 10, Alex: 10
Maybe I’m old and crotchety.
Maybe I just don’t see it.
Hans Crouse just doesn’t really look like much of a viable starting pitching prospect to me at all. Everything about him - stuff, delivery, demeanor - screams “reliever”. There’s nothing wrong with this. After all, it’s been noted how poorly the team has been performing at developing pitching as a whole, let along viable relief pitchers. Just because he was higher up on the Rangers’ prospect list doesn’t mean he’s a viable rotation candidate.
In his limited time with the Phillies, Crouse wasn’t exactly coming out throwing bullets. He averaged 92.9 miles per hour with his fastball, probably lower than what you were expecting. His slider was fine, but it also wasn’t exactly a top of the line pitch. I’m just not sure he’s a rotation candidate long term.
And that’s fine!
There isn’t anything wrong with becoming a reliever in today’s game. Managers are relying more and more on their bullpens, so roles where a pitcher can throw 1, 2, even 3 innings per outing with effectiveness will be coveted. Crouse’s unusual deliver would probably buy him the time he needed to make his stuff play up, but as the report up top said, after hitters got used to it, the stuff isn’t there to let it play for starter-length outings. Plus, he might benefit from a bump in velocity if he knew he was only going an inning or two, making his delivery even more deceptive. Does this transition start this year? Unless/until it is needed, there is no harm in continuing Crouse as a rotation option. Let’s just be sure to keep the team’s needs at the big league level in mind should the need for a reliever come up.