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Alexander Keudell & Ryan Crowley: Top Angels Prospect Performances

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Keep in mind that this is not a traditional top prospect list because it focuses entirely on 2013 contributions. I rank guys according to advanced metrics which, for position players, include batting runs above average, positional adjustment, defense, and a replacement level calculation that scales the total to "Wins Above Replacement" (though the concept of replacement level doesn't really apply to minor leaguers). I use a standard "runs allowed based" WAR formula for pitchers.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

(11)  Alexander Keudell, 23, rhsp. A/A+. 3.4 WAR,  +14 runs saved. 152.2 IP, 3.42 ERA, 103 K/40 BB

83-86 mph. That's where Keudell's fastball sat in his August 18th start against the San Jose Giants. A game in which he went seven innings and yielded just one run against the best team in the Cal League.  Still, 86 mph.

The tyranny of the radar gun has kept Keudell on the margins from day one.  He's paid to play baseball, which is quite an achievement; but still, he's been on the margins, just a few months of poor performance away from loosing his foothold in the game. Despite wild amateur success at the University of Oregon, he waited until the 27th round to be drafted, as a senior.  Then, despite a solid pro-debut that saw his strikeout rate jump from his college days, the Rays cut him.  Overloaded as they were with talent, they preferred to give their A-Ball innings to bigger arms, rather than reward a guy for solid performance against befuddled teenagers.

The pitching-starved Halos scooped Keudell up out of minor league free agency, and watched him pitch his way through both A-Ball levels and play a big role in the 66'ers championship run.  He's the picture of competence, attacking hitters at a brisk pace with a quick delivery from a low, almost side-arm sling.  He relies heavily on command, working both sides of the plate with the fastball.  Based on scouting reports, I'd expected him to flash a plus curve frequently, but he leaned heavily on his fastball while mixing in a slider and a change-up.  He didn't dominate, but he kept hitters off balance, made good pitches in the clutch, and ran into luck when he needed it.  He has the skill set to put up plenty of quality innings in Arkansas or Inland Empire in 2014, depending on how spring training shakes out.

When Keudell makes it to Salt Lake, we'll see whether the radar gun's sway over his career constituted sage judgment.  Perhaps he continues to perform and proves the tyranny more lazy than just.

(12)  Ryan Crowley, 22, lhsp.  A. 3.3 WAR, +13 runs saved. 151 IP, 3.28 ERA, 123 K/35 BB

Crowley is a lanky, projectable lefty that the Halos scooped up out of Northwest Florida State College in the 19th round of the 2011 draft.  He didn't pitch a televised game this year, so I don't have first-hand updates on his stuff and pitch mix, but here are the broad strokes: after a disastrous 2012 foray into the Cal League, the organization played it safe and left him in the Midwest League last year.  The southpaw responded with strike-throwing competence.

Crowley did a much better job of limiting damage on contact than he had the previous season. He cut his linedrive rate against by a quarter, while turning those former liners into a 5% bump in groundball rate and a 4% jump in pop-outs.  His BABIP allowed dropped 71 points (-34 points if you count only his Midwest League time), which left the opposition hitting only .248/.294/.387 against him, righties a better-but-not-alarming .256/.304/.417.  Looks like he's ready to give the Cal League another go.

Here's what his delivery looks like:

Fluid athleticism and silky smooth mechanics, from which his good control/command derive. When I saw him in 2012, I really liked his curveball, and his change-up seemed usable if unremarkable. What Crowley's success will come down to is whether or not he has enough fastball to survive at the upper levels.

Sound familiar?

Crowley is the system's best bet to turn into the next Matt Shoemaker.  Look for a solid campaign in High A next year.  Arkansas could make him look really good.