We continue our Unheralded Prospect Series with left-handed starter Leo Crawford. Now, just looking at statistics is something you can’t do when considering Crawford. He is one of the funnest pitchers to watch in person or even on video.
He’s not blessed with a high-90s fastball is an artist on the mound. He uses deception, some craftiness, and a great changeup to get batters out.
Born in Nicaragua in 1997, Crawford was signed by the Dodgers in 2014 as a 17-year-old. His first professional season was in the rookie league in the Dominican Republic in 2015. He ended up with a 1.41 ERA in 63.2 innings as an 18-year-old to get a good start on his career. These rookie leagues really don’t start until June. For 2016 he started the season in the rookie league in Arizona to get his feet wet playing in the United States.
As stated above, Leo Crawford started the season in rookie ball and earned a promotion up to Great Lakes in single A. He was allowed to skip past Ogden and ended up with the Loons in early August. In the postseason he only gave up 2 runs in 10 innings. At this point there started to be some rumblings about him as a prospect.
His season had some numbers that weren’t sterling including his 4.60 ERA over 135 innings. The main issue was three awful games where he gave up 24 earned runs in just 14 innings. The rest of his starts were average to good. It seemed at this point that Crawford fell off the radar.
The 2018 season was a bit of a roller coaster ride for Crawford at the beginning of the season. He started with two starts at high-A with the Quakes. In mid-April, he got a brief call up to AAA for one relief appearance before being sent all the way back to Great Lakes. This was now his third part of a season with the Loons which seemed bad for Leo. He then went and posted just a 4.02 ERA in 47 innings, giving up 52 hits and only striking out 33. Still, he got a promotion back to the Quakes in early July.
His first start in July was a 7 inning, 1 hit outing with only 1 walk and 7 strikeouts. For that outing he was awarded the Pitcher of the Week award. There were a couple of bumpy starts but Leo’s time with Rancho was an amazing time for him. He finished 8-0 with the Quakes with a 2.77 ERA. Something very important in the homer friendly California League only allowed 3 bombs in 68.1 innings. That is remarkable.
For many, it was a surprise that Leo Crawford started the 2019 season back with the Quakes. Then he got off to a slow and injury-plagued start as his ERA after May was a sky high 4.93. He then got on a roll and his ERA started to go down. It took a huge drop on July 9 as he threw a 9 inning shutout. He only gave up 3 hits and didn’t walk a batter. Now he was getting some notice a bit as he won the Pitcher of the Week award again.
By the end of July his ERA was down to 2.96 and earned a promotion to the AA team of Tulsa. In his first two starts with the Drillers, he didn’t give up an earned run and was the Pitcher of the Week in AA now. He ended up with a 2.37 ERA in 30.1 innings.
It’s pretty clear that Leo Crawford will start the season with Tulsa in AA when it starts. This would be his age 23 season and I could see a good chance as a mid-season promotion to AAA. Before the hard stop to everything, he was scheduled to pitch for Nicaragua in the World Baseball Classic qualifier.
Crawford is a pitcher that throws a high 80s to low 90s fastball. He’s not a guy that the scouts drool over with a high 90s fastball but knows how to get batters out. He has an elite changeup and pickoff move to first base. What separates him from other pitchers is that he is an old school type pitcher. His pitching mechanics keep batters off balance as he varies his delivery from pitch to pitch. The pitcher he reminds me of is the great Luis Tiant and some Johnny Cueto.
You can see more of his mechanics in this 2019 season review.
There is no doubt in my mind that Leo Crawford will make appearances in the Major Leagues by the end of the 2021 season. He’s just one of those guys who pitches smart and gets guys out. Even though he is still young he carries himself like a veteran player. With the Quakes, it was easy to see that he is a team leader. He is a native Spanish speaker but also speaks English well which allows him to be somebody that other players can lean on.
The success that Leo Crawford has experienced for the last one and a half seasons has put him at a place where people should start taking notice. To be honest, it could not happen to a nicer guy. If you have a chance, he is worth watching in person or on a video stream. I will be posting when he is on a stream so you have the chance to watch.