The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Over the next few weeks, we are going to take a look at the players that should play a significant role for the Royals in 2014.
This first player to be profiled is right handed relief pitcher Aaron Crow.
The 27-year old from Topeka, Kansas, who was a first round draft pick for the Royals in 2009, has pitched three full season in the big leagues. In all reality, he has evolved into a very average bullpen arm.
Crow earned $1.28 million last season and could earn about $1.5 million in 2014. While Crow does have talent, his 2013 numbers show that he is a replaceable part, and the Royals could probably non tender him and find a cheaper option, most likely from within their own organization. It is very unlikely this will happen in 2014.
This opinion may not be popular among some Royals fans but his performance last season just didn’t indicate that he is anything but an average pitcher.
In 2013, despite more rest than in his previous seasons, Crow saw a drop in production across the board statistically. Even though his ERA dropped from 3.48 in 3.38, his WHIP went up from a solid 1.175 in 2012 to a very mundane 1.479. He had more hits than innings pitched for the first time in his career, and finished with less than a strikeout per inning for the first time.
His Hits per 9 Innings jumped from 7.5 in 2012, to 9.1 in 2013. His Walks per 9 Innings went from a solid 3.1 to 4.1 (which was better than his rookie season – 4.5), his Strikeouts per 9 Innings dropped to a career low, but still solid 8.3, and his K/BB fell to 2.0.
A couple other disturbing trends are that his percentage of inherited base runners he allowed to score jumped from 29% in 2012 to 34% in 2013. On top of that, a full third of the hits he allowed went for extra bases.
It is doubtful that Crow can ever develop into more than just a decent bullpen arm. He basically throws just 2 pitches. According to TexasLeaguers.com’s data, Crow threw either a four-seam fastball or a slider 88.4% of the time. He threw a 2-seam fastball 8.7% of the time, and a curve ball only 2.8% on his pitches. (Fangraphs.com, also an excellent source, has slightly different data, but the percentages as very similar.)
His slider is pretty effective, getting a swing and a miss 21.7% (Texas Leaguers) of the time. He only had a whiff rate on 10.3% on all his pitches combined, according to Fangraphs.
Crow wasn’t terrible in 2013, but he just wasn’t all that great either. He could certainly bounce back and perform in 2014 closer to his 2012 stats.
His Batting Average on Balls in Play was higher than normal at .321. His previous numbers in this stat this category, .296 in 2011 and .299 in 2012, are historically average, so he could regress back to the norm. This could help him return to his previous marks.
If Crow can cut back his walks and strand more base runners, he could return to his 2012 numbers easy enough. Maybe his 2013 numbers will turn out to be an anomaly. Still, the Royals seem to be spending a lot of money on their bullpen. They can ill afford for Crow to put up just mediocre bullpen numbers.
The Royals could probably replace Crow’s production so if they can include him in a trade in an effort to improve the team elsewhere, say for Cubs’ starter Jeff Samardzija, it probably wouldn’t leave a gigantic hole in the bullpen.
If he remains with the Royals, which is most likely, Crow can be a very good option for Ned Yost out of the pen. He needs to improve on some things, and if he does, he will be a big contributor for the Royals in 2014.
$1.5 million is a huge amount of money, relatively speaking, in the grand scheme of things, so there is little chance the Royals non tender him. At his age, he still has value, with room for improvement. If he duplicates his last season’s numbers, or gets worse though, his time with the Royals may end.