Picking a prospect in the draft is partly about the best player available. The problem is arriving at a definition of “best”: MLB-ready? Highest ceiling? Most likelihood of contributing to an MLB team in some way? Age? Performance in wood-bat leagues vs. in college? The answers to all of these questions and the huge variety in baseball’s prospect types determine what “best” will be for each team. It’s not just teams, though: as you dive into tracking prospects, you notice the tools and player types you’re drawn to, over and over. Sometimes you just want the reliability of a college hitter with high-OBP. If you’re me, though, you can’t really get enough of the athleticism and upside from the elite prep bats that go at the top of the MLB draft. There are a lot of different routes for players in this class to contribute to a big-league club, and in addition they generally have the greatest amount of dreamability—the guys who you think could turn into Mookie Betts or Cody Bellinger or… no, I won’t say Mike Trout.
[If prep bats are not your thing, check out the other entries in this series: Georgia righty Emerson Hancock, ASU slugger Spencer Torkelson, or tooled-up Vandy Boy Austin Martin]
That brings us to Harvard-Westlake (CA) OF Pete Crow-Armstrong. A 6’1”, 175 lb OF from Southern California, Crow-Armstrong possesses all five tools with aplomb. He’s already a very good runner, playing good defense in the outfield and posting above-average home-to-first times at national events. There’s a lot of room left on his frame—he’s not as filled out as, for example, Jarred Kelenic was on draft day—but he has lots of time to add muscle, and even now there’s already plenty of thump in the bat. In addition, Crow-Armstrong has spent signifcant time playing in showcase events and for the 18U national team, so there’s a whole bunch of really good footage for us to pore over like the very normal people we are.
Despite a not-yet-maxed-out body, Crow-Armstrong has all the tools you’d hope to see for future power—the elevated swing plane and powerful load especially stand out. Nor is that the end of the matter: even against good high school competition, his incredibly quick hands and wrists stand out, allowing him to reach pitches breaking away from him to poke them the other way or foul them off to keep at-bats alive.
Though there’s not a lot to go on here (go to about the four minute mark to see his throwing action), we can take reports of his plus running ability (he’s been timed at 6.51 seconds in the 60-yard dash, which is an elite time for a high schooler) and combine that with footage and measurements (93 mph from the outfield!) of an arm that has a whippy action, generating a low, boring trajectory and glean that he certainly seems quite capable of sticking in center field.
Above the shoulders, Crow-Armstrong shows some of the traits you would expect of an elite, driven high schooler—occasional impatience at the plate, frustration that he doesn’t reach base every time he bats—but, crucially, is also aware of that “immaturity” (his word!), which speaks well to his ability to age into a consistently mature approach at the plate. Nor does this failure define him: his high school coach Jared Halpert notes that he does usually have a plan at the plate and is a consistent student of the minutiae of pitchers and game situations.
So come on, Mariners: #DoHarmforCrowArm.