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Rangers embrace Crouse's personality, delivery

@GoldenSombrero
March 12, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Little has changed about Hans Crouse since he joined the Rangers as a second-round pick in the 2017 Draft. For most players, that would come off as a knock. With Crouse, however, it’s a very good thing. The Rangers’ top-ranked prospect shows the power stuff needed to

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Little has changed about Hans Crouse since he joined the Rangers as a second-round pick in the 2017 Draft. For most players, that would come off as a knock. With Crouse, however, it’s a very good thing.

The Rangers’ top-ranked prospect shows the power stuff needed to become a Major League pitcher, pairing a riding fastball that sits in the mid-90s and routinely touches 99 mph with mid-80s slider that has wipeout and two-plane break. The combination makes Crouse naturally tough to barrel and nets him whiffs both inside and out of the zone.

Rangers Spring Training report | Top 30 Prospects | Prospects' Spring Training stats

He’s also an animated and fiery competitor on the mound, one who pitches with conviction and isn’t afraid to mess with hitters’ timing by mixing in quick pitches or even incorporating a Johnny Cueto-esque shimmy into a delivery which he repeats well, though it does involve considerable effort as well as a violent head whack.

“[The Rangers] have not changed a thing about my personality or my mechanics, which I’ve loved,” said Crouse, MLB Pipeline’s No. 85 overall prospect.

“Before the Draft … I was hearing back from my agency that a lot of teams were iffy on my delivery, so I thought for sure there would be some big tweaks when I got to pro ball. But the Rangers have embraced me from Day 1.”

Crouse knows that his delivery, while not ideal from a mechanical standpoint, is a big part of what makes him unique as a pitching prospect. The results, meanwhile, only underscore the 20-year-old right-hander’s ability to make it all work consistently.

“I do things a little differently than most people,” admits Crouse, “so I like that they’ve let me keep my creativity.”

Rather than overhaul Crouse’s delivery, the Rangers instead have implemented training that they believe will allow him to better repeat it, while also keeping him healthy long-term.

“I’ve been doing posture stuff to open up my body more,” he said. “I’ve always been a tightly bounded guy, so just some flexibility stuff to get down the mound a little easier and get more extension.”

Crouse reached full-season Class A Hickory late in the 2018 season and posted a 2.70 ERA in five South Atlantic League starts. Altogether, the Dana Hills (Calif.) native logged a 2.47 ERA with 62 strikeouts and a .209 BAA in 54 2/3 innings (13 starts) across two levels.

“I think the biggest thing was just getting into a better routine. Just prepping my body, especially before I go out there,” he said when asked about his takeaways from the season.

Beyond learning about the physical demands, Crouse has realized that he’ll need a quality third pitch -- no matter how dominant he is with his fastball and breaking ball -- in order to be successful at higher levels.

As a result, developing a changeup, and learning how to use it, is a focal point for him this spring and the entire 2019 season.

“I’m starting to get really comfortable with it,” Crouse said, “and I think it’ll play big for me this year.

“The biggest thing with it,” he continued, “is just matching my arm speed and just throwing it how I would throw my fastball. My focus with my eyes in the zone … I need to drop it a little more than I do with my fastball so I can get that true changeup movement.”

In terms of usage, Crouse and the Rangers already have a plan in place.

“Start pitching backwards a little more to guys, just to work on my secondary stuff, especially my changeup, and getting more comfortable throwing it to right-handed hitters, because I’ve mostly been throwing it to lefties here and there so far,” he said.

Having a changeup, even if only average at the best, at his disposal would greatly improve Crouse’s chances of sticking as a starter long-term, as it gives him an offering needed to neutralize left-handed hitters, turn over a lineup and generally keep hitters off his plus fastball-slider combo.

The Rangers believe Crouse has all the components, both physical and mental, needed to develop a third pitch and improve his delivery, viewing him as a future fixture at the front of their big league rotation.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.