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Potanko: How Early is Too Early to Get Excited About Wil Crowe?

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After the 2021 season concluded for the Pirates, many expected the team to be bad. The biggest priority was to see some progress on the development within the farm system and youth on the big league club. One of those youthful players is Wil Crowe, and at first glance, many would say ’21 was not the greatest year for the 27-year-old.

The South Carolina native appeared in 116.2 innings (25/26 games started) and posted an abysmal ERA of 5.48. Opponents had a slash line of .276/.363/.501 along with an OPS of .864, that’s about as pretty as me in a beauty contest (don’t picture it, you may need an eyewash station if you do.)

One of the more concerning things for Crowe in the ’21 season was it seemed opponents hit the ball on a tee, and it might as well have been with a 37.2% hard-hit rate and a 21.4% line drive rate. There was some hope, though; things weren’t all bleak.

His fastball/changeup combo worked beautifully, facing a lineup once, maybe twice in order. His slider wasn’t half bad either, with opponents hitting just .233 off it and a decent WHIFF rate. Everyone and their momma wondered, could Crowe serve as a reliever and do better?

Crowe only appeared as a reliever once in the Nationals Minor League system and then one more time with the Pirates late last year. Not a lot to go on, but with a really good two/three-pitch mix and a tendency to do well against a lineup once through the order, why not take a shot in the dark for the ’22 season.

It is still way too early in the ’22 season, but Crowe has looked otherworldly coming out of the bullpen. Manager Derek Shelton has used Crowe as a two-inning reliever as a sort of piggyback off of the starter and thus far has amassed seven full innings of work.

Crowe has struck out nine, walked three, gave up just one hit in those seven innings of work, and has no earned or unearned runs. According to Baseball Savant, Crowe is in the upper echelon in terms of all the major advanced stats categories. The main category that sticks out to me is Whiff% in the 80th percentile.

So, keep posting your Mariano Rivera GIFS and the potential Devin Williams comps because Crowe has looked marvelous–for now anyway. As a Pirates fan, you may be geared to expect disappointment, so keep a watchful eye, but a hopeful one.

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