Long before there were Giants pitching prospects like Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, Kyle Crick was the talk of the town and for good reason.
San Francisco selected Crick with their sandwich-pick in the Compensation A Round, No. 49 overall, as a power-throwing right-handed Texas high school arm in 2011. Quickly he showed his immense potential on the mound and seemed to be on the fast track to The Show.
In Crick’s first full season of minor league ball, he posted a 2.51 ERA to go with 128 strikeouts in 111.1 innings pitched for the Augusta GreenJackets at just 20 years old. One year later in 2013, he upped his game, pitching to the tune of a 1.57 ERA over 14 starts for the San Jose Giants and continued striking out batters at a high rate with 95 in 68.2 innings.
But then, control issues hampered Crick, outweighing his high-90s fastball and ability to make batters whiff. He fell completely off prospect lists and saw plenty of other Giants pitchers leap him and make it to San Francisco. At one point, Crick even contemplated quitting.
“When you are in those dark places and those tough spots, it’s hard to find the confidence,” Crick told the San Francisco Chronicle in March.
Despite his struggles, the Giants’ front office still saw the potential in Crick and formed a new plan. Crick toyed with relief duties while also serving as a starter in 2015, but then started all 23 of his appearances the next year. Before the 2017 season, there was no more messing around. Crick is now a full-time reliever in Triple-A for the Sacramento River Cats, and as he’s able to rear back and fire his blazing fastball in no more than two innings at a time, he is thriving once again on the hill.
Crick converted his fifth save of the season for the River Cats Thursday night in a 5-3 win over the Memphis Redbirds at Raley Field. With the game on the line, Crick didn’t make it easy loading the bases, but once again turned to his knack for the strikeout and struck out the side to preserve a River Cats victory.
Over 16 games this season, all out of the bullpen, Crick is enjoying career reinventions. He owns an 0-1 record with a 3.20 ERA, his lowest since that eye-opening 2013 campaign. And Crick has struck out 28 batters in 19.2 innings pitched during the 2017 campaign. The power righty leads all Pacific Coast League relievers with his career-high 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
Most importantly though, Crick’s control issues are long gone so far in his new role.
Crick has only eight walks on the year. Just once, back on May 1, did he walk more than one batter in a game. From 2012-2016, Crick’s walks per nine innings went like so: 5.42, 5.11, 6.08, 9.43 and 5.53. As a reliever this season, that number has dropped down to a career-best 3.66.
This is now Crick’s sixth full season in the minors and his first crack at Triple-A after three tries at Double-A. None of that matters. What does matter, is Crick’s young age of 24 and that the numbers show his confidence may finally be back.
In an age where we want everything right now, including top prospects performing in the bigs, the key to Crick’s potential may have been patience the whole time.
Around The Horn
— Chris Shaw made his Triple-A debut for the River Cats. He went 1-for-4 including an RBI double and played left field. Here’s what Shaw had to say about his promotion: "It was exciting. That's definitely something that I was glad to hear and something that every player wants to hear. I'm getting a chance to play at the next level and get a step closer to the goal.”
— Jae-Gyun Hwang is swinging a hot bat the last two games in Sacramento. Hwang has five hits in his last nine at-bats with five RBI.
— Matt Krook, the Giants’ fourth-round pick last year, won his first game of the season in his eighth start for San Jose. The big lefty is seen as someone with huge upside but has struggled mightily with his control, walking 31 batters in 29 innings this year.