The hype machine has a habit of shutting itself off when it comes to injured prospects. It’s the nature of things in prospectland — it’s hard to get excited about a given player’s future when he’s not even on the field. Such was the case with San Francisco Giants pitching prospect, Kyle Crick, who missed two months of the season with an oblique injury. Not to imply that Crick is getting no hype — he’s pitching too damn well for that — but because his name hasn’t been at the forefront from April through August, he’s probably not getting the full attention that he deserves. In 14 High-A starts this season (11 of which have come after the DL stint), the 20-year-old has posted a 1.57 ERA, and a K/9 at 12.5. That line includes his final start of the regular season (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K), but it does not include his first career playoff start, which took place this past Sunday (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K). These last two outings make it impossible to deny that this is a prospect who’s ready for a test in the upper levels. Crick will get a taste of that advanced competition in the Arizona Fall League next month, where he’ll be one of the prospects I’m most excited to track.
The Giants took Crick 49th overall in the 2011 Draft, seeing promise in the big-armed, big-bodied right-hander. He stands 6-4, 220, and brings a mid-90s fastball and a powerful late-breaking curve. His stature and general Matt Cain-ish appearance make the Matt Cain comparison a no-brainer, but the 20-year-old actually features an arsenal that could put his ceiling higher than Cain’s. Provided everything clicks in the command department — and it’s been looking that way of recent — Crick could have an immeasurable ceiling, one that would easily match the potential of fellow prospects Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley. If the command development goes the other way, however — and keep in mind that he’s shown a propensity for poor command (5.1 BB/9 this season) — then Crick’s big arm could find it’s way into a bullpen role by the time he reaches the bigs.
Even taking in account the flame-out risk, this is a guy that needs to be considered among the best starting pitchers in the minors. Looking back at my Mid-Season Top 50, at the time I put the list together, I felt I was somewhat bold in slotting Crick at #34. We’re not even two months removed from that list, and I’m already thinking I wasn’t bold enough. With a convincing effort next month in Arizona, and a follow-up strong showing next spring, Kyle Crick could enter 2014 as a top 20 fantasy baseball prospect with aspirations to join the Giants’ rotation sometime that summer. The Giants appear to have a homegrown ace-in-the-making on their hands, which is something their farm has been missing since the departure of Zack Wheeler. For the sanity of their fans, let’s hope San Francisco doesn’t trade Crick for a Carlos Beltran rental, or its equivalent. We’re all better off if this one gets to pitch at AT&T Park.