Pittsburgh Pirates: Bullpen Move Could Benefit Wil Crowe
By Noah Wright
Wil Crowe has started the year in the bullpen, something that could benefit him and the Pittsburgh Pirates for the long run
Right-hander Wil Crowe is one of the many pitchers fighting for a potential long-term role with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Acquired by the Bucs in the Josh Bell trade, Crowe was considered one of the Nationals’ best prospects at the time of the transaction. Although Eddy Yean was the headliner of the trade, Crowe came to the Pirates as a guy who could be a solid #4 starter.
However, many talented arms are coming up the system. Roansy Contreras and Quinn Priester are the best the Pittsburgh Pirates have to offer. Still, other notable names in the upper minor leagues include Michael Burrows, Ricky DeVito, Cody Bolton, J.C. Flowers, Luis Ortiz, Kyle Nicolas, Carmen Mlodzinski, Trey McGough, and Omar Cruz. Crowe will have a hard time keeping a rotation spot, but moving to the bullpen could salvage his long-term potential.
All but one of Crowe’s appearances in 2021 were starts. In total, he pitched 116.2 innings, yielding a 5.48 ERA, 5.67 FIP, and 1.57 WHIP. Crowe had just a 21.2% strikeout rate and a poor 10.9% walk rate. However, his biggest weakness was home runs, which he gave up at a 1.93-per-9 rate.
But despite this poor home run rate, he was above average in terms of exit velocity with an 88.8 MPH mark (top 51st percentile) and hard-hit rate at 37.1% (top 63rd percentile). He also had a sub-20% line drive rate (18.7%) and decent groundball rate (42.9%). Overall, he has the potential to improve the weakest part of his game from last season.
So what could make Crowe a solid bullpen pitcher? He does have two solid offerings between his fastball and change-up. His four-seamer has above-average velocity and spin. He sits around 93-94 MPH with roughly 2400 RPM. His change-up had a -5 run value and an xwOBA twenty-two points lower than the actual mark. Overall, it was the 5th best change-up in 2021. His sinker also wasn’t far from being average with only +0.2 RV/100.
Crowe will be starting this year out in the bullpen but the Pirates need to leave him there unless multiple injuries demand him to make a start. He’s already pitched 4 innings scoreless innings with 5 strikeouts. But leaving Crowe as a two-inning reliever could be very beneficial for the right-hander. Not only could this be a way to lessen the competition for rotation spots, but it may also give the Pirates a quality long-relief arm.