It’s been well documented when covering Nationals prospects in 2018 that the outstanding record of right-hander Wil Crowe at high Single-A Potomac was followed with some tough outings after a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg.
Crowe, a 6-foot-2, 240-lb. South Carolina product, went 11-0 with the P-Nats and then 0-5 with the Senators.
The right-hander told me fatigue set in as his longest season ever wore on and his arm slot started to change, which caused some issues with his mechanics.
“It was good to go up there,” Crowe said of his time with Harrisburg. “I think my first couple outings up there, I think was still on that ‘I got called up!’ high and then later, probably last four or five outings, I was really, really exhausted. My arm slot was dropped. The length of the season, I guess that first time ... when I came out of the draft, I was protected. They didn’t throw me very much. So then last year was my first full season all the way to September and I got home and ... mentally and physically, I was just really, really exhausted.
“It’s tough, but it was good to experience it last year, and coming into this year, I’m ready and I know what I have to do differently and how I am going to have to approach things differently throughout the year. So I am excited.”
Crowe, 24, said a slight back injury slowed down his preseason training last year. He is fully healthy this spring, so he had nothing holding him back from going full-in on strength and conditioning work.
“Last year, I had a back thing I got over, and this year, I didn’t have it at all,” Crowe said. “I was able to do more conditioning and to be able to do that the whole offseason and then my strength training, I could put more weight on my back. I think my training was very, very similar, just I got to intensify it a little bit.”
The 2017 second-rounder said he had good success with his fastball in 2018. But when his arm slot started to drop late in the year, that’s when the effectiveness of his other pitches suffered.
“I was really comfortable throwing my two-seam all last year,” he said. “When I dropped my arm slot, that hurt my curveball and slider more than anything, so coming back into camp, getting here and now throwing more innings and stuff, I’m working on staying in my arm slot and being able to throw those pitches more effectively.
“When I’m in my right arm slot, my arm’s not down, my curveball and my slider are way better. My changeup comes out - deception is what you need - and if I’m in that same arm slot with all four pitches, it’s they all look the same, so they don’t know what’s coming.
Here is the scientific description of what happens to a hitter when Crowe throws his changeup and the hitter sees fastball:
“The way I think of is you grip it and rip it. If your changeup comes out the same arm slot, it doesn’t matter if it starts at the bottom of the zone or top of the zone - they see fastball for the first 50 feet. The way it spins out of the hands and the way you naturally pronate with the grip, it comes out the right way. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I think it’s (in) 0.25 seconds the hitter has to decide if he’s swinging or not. And in that 0.25, they see fastball. So then by the time they’ve decided to swing, they don’t know it’s a changeup until it’s almost two-thirds of the way there. They then get halfway done with their swing (and it’s over).”
Crowe got the chance to pitch for the Nationals in a big league spring training game against the Braves. He allowed two runs on three hits in one inning. While it didn’t go as well as Crowe would have liked, he said you can’t replace that kind of experience as he prepares for 2019.
“Yeah, it was a good experience,” Crowe said. “I enjoyed my time up there, learning and listening. I tried to take it all in. I really observed how they go about their business. It was a good time.”
He threw a bullpen Tuesday and has had success since returning to the minor league camp.
“My last bullpen I had two or three days ago, I was really comfortable throwing all my pitches and I felt a lot better than I did in big league camp, so I am getting there, getting ready to go and I am excited for the season,” he said.