Two-way prospect Crawford goes deep in his first pro start at first base

October 18th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- estimated it’s been 25 or 26 months since he last played first base in a game setting. That would put him in fall ball during his sophomore year at UConn. Since then, he’s undergone Tommy John surgery, been drafted 30th overall as a potential two-way player, made his brief Minor League debut and been sent to the Arizona Fall League.

So yeah, it’s been a while.

“Literally just running out there for the game after the national anthem,” Crawford said of his welcome-to-first-base moment. “I’m second-guessing certain things. It started to come back in the second or third inning, like it was a strike three and I wanted to throw to shortstop instead of second base. Little stuff like that. You have to laugh it off, but it’s definitely so much fun.”

That’s one milestone down. Here’s another – his first outside-the-park homer of the Fall League.

The No. 8 Giants prospect went deep and walked over five plate appearances Tuesday as part of Scottsdale’s 7-5 win over Mesa at Scottsdale Stadium.

The homer came on a solo shot in the fifth inning against Astros right-hander Miguel Ullola. Up 2-0 in the count, the left-handed slugger got a fastball middle-in and drove it 400 feet out toward the Charro Lodge in right field with an exit velocity of 103 mph. The long ball came three days after Crawford hit (and sprinted for) an inside-the-park homer, and his Scorpions teammates decided to welcome him back to the dugout on this occasion with the silent treatment.

“I figured they were going to do that,” Crawford said. “This is about time that I put the ball on the bat, so they’re giving me a hard time. But I love these guys. They make it more interesting.”

Following his surgery, Crawford made 13 starts on the mound during the regular season as the Giants eased his pitching work back in and only got in 19 plate appearances with Single-A San Jose and High-A Eugene because of the focus on his arm that is capable of sitting 95-97 mph with a plus mid-80s slider.

Sent to Arizona with instructions to be a hitter only, Crawford opened the Fall League 4-for-25 (.160) with 14 strikeouts over his first seven games with Scottsdale. Following Tuesday’s showing, he has gone 3-for-10 in his last three contests with all three hits going for extra bases (two homers, one double).

“We’re getting more at-bats under my belt,” said the 6-foot-4 slugger. “Now we’re starting to see what works, what doesn’t work. It’s good now that I’m starting to see some pitches, starting to see different shapes and stuff. I definitely feel like I’m starting to get more comfortable because, again, it has been a lot of time since I’ve been doing this consistently.”

Crawford’s 37 plate appearances in Arizona have revealed a possible key to his recent turnaround.

“I need to get in my legs,” he said. “When I don’t really get in my legs, I start to drift toward the pitcher and then I tie myself up. When I have a good base with my back leg, that typically solves a lot of issues I was having.”

Including first base in his workload adds a new wrinkle to Crawford’s time in Arizona. The Giants initially told him to focus on being a DH in his first two weeks, and with that done, the former Huskies star estimates he’ll play the cold corner twice a week for the remainder of his time as a Scorpion.

That means a more active Crawford, and if Tuesday is any indication, that could mean a more slugging Crawford and maybe a louder Scottsdale dugout too.

“It definitely makes you feel a little more included because you’re moving around and you’re doing stuff,” Crawford said. “It’s tricky when you don’t have a cage down here and you’re DHing. You just have to stay warm in the dugout. But at least when you’re out there, your body tends to stay warm, and you tend to stay in the game.

“It’s definitely nice, being able to play first, being able to hit. I’m enjoying it.”