Richmond's Crick Turning A Corner In Development
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 25, 2014, 14:34
*RICHMOND — Kyle Crick has had to deal with high expectations throughout his life. It's what happens when as an 18-year-old, you possess a mid 90s fastball, the prototypical body-type of a Major League starting pitcher and are drafted in the 1st round of the Major League Baseball Draft. Those expectations then continue when one impresses an entire organization with his first two years in the Minor League system.
Crick not only pitched well in his first two years within the San Francisco Giants' system, but dominated. Pitching in the low Single-A level at Augusta, Crick rode his overpowering fastball to a 2.51 ERA in 22 starts while punching out 128 batters in just 111.1 innings pitched. It was enough for the Giants to place him at high Single-A San Jose where he shined again, lowering his earned run average to a miniscule 1.57 in 14 starts.
It's why entering the 2014 season, Baseball America ranked Crick as the No. 1 prospect within the Giants' organization and was pegged to be the ace of the Richmond Flying Squirrels' rotation at the Double-A level. However, it has not exactly followed the script laid out before the campaign began.
The 21-year-old experienced much success during his first two years in the minors by overpowering hitters with a fastball which can reach as high as 97 mph. The velocity overwhelmed hitters in the lower levels of the minors and Crick rarely had to utilize his secondary pitches. The same philosophy has not worked in Double-A.
Crick struggled with his control, walking 19 batters over his first six starts while reaching the 5th inning just once. The struggles and the hitters' tendency to both catch up to his fastball and lay off pitches out of the zone led him to realize an adjustment needed to be made.
"I've just been trying to be positive on the mound," Crick said of his adjustment. "I had to stop to thinking about what might happen instead of what I needed to focus on which is throwing everything for strikes. Not a lot of bad things can happen when you get ahead of hitters."
And his newfound aggressiveness and willingness to incorporate his secondary pitches into the game earlier and more often has resulted in more success. While it may not be the type of dominating success he's experienced at other levels, it's a step in the right direction.
Entering Wednesday's start, Crick had pitched into at least the 5th inning in four of his past six starts while also eliminating the amount of free passes handed out. While still high at 14 walks, the ability to pitch to contact helped him pitch later into games.
However, against the Harrisburg Senators in the final game of a three-game set, Crick experienced both the highs and lows of his first three months of the Double-A level. The Sherman, TX native punched out eight hitters over the course of the first four innings.
His fastball overpowered the Senators early on with his first four victims flailing at fastballs ranging from 94 to 96 mph. Then, Crick began to mix in his secondary pitches to great effect, picking up three of his next four punch-outs via his curve and slider en route to a 6-2 win in front of 4,496 fans at The Diamond.
"I need a show-me pitch and I need something for a strike to keep hitters off-balance," Crick said after his double-digit strikeout effort. "More than anything, I think the curveball and the slider were working real well today. I was able to throw it for strikes and balls when I needed it more."
But Crick's 5-inning, 10-strikeout and one-hit effort was not one just filled with domination. It also highlighted the type of polish Crick still needs to harness if he is to fulfill the potential which made him a 1st round pick.
Mixed into his outing of dominance in which he surrendered just a one double in the 4th inning was five walks handed out. However, his ability to pitch out of such jams — ones caused by his own doing of course — is a promising development of mental toughness.
Crick was able to correct himself on the mound, re-find his mechanics and put his team in position to sweep the Senators (30-46) which they did. Richmond's (45-31) Devin Harris blasted two doubles and a single, one which drove in Parker in the 1st inning for one of his two RBIs, and one which allowed both Tyle LaTorre and Ryan Lollis to record sacrifice-flies.
The Flying Squirrels would add an additional run in the 6th inning after Ryan Lollis' two-out double gave pinch-hitter Tyler Graham an opportunity. Graham lined a base-hit into left which scored Lollis on a nice slide at the plate and another in the 8th on an error. Although the win is Richmond's fifth in a row and 15th of their last 21, the story was Crick's ability to continuing to develop his talent in a Richmond uniform.
"That's what it's all about. Everyone struggles and you have to," Crick said of continuing to develop. "You wouldn't know how you'd respond to adverse situations if you don't. So I think it's good for me to struggle every now and then and be able to go back at them."
After experiencing both ups and downs in his latest start while persevering to pick up a win and allow no runs to cross the plate, Crick may be turning the corner in his development and it's a positive sign moving forward.