Next Ohtani? SF top pick excited to chase 2-way dream

Crawford (fireballing LHP/slugging 1B), 'big, tall' LHP Whisenhunt cap Giants' Day 1

July 18th, 2022

The Giants selected University of Connecticut two-way standout Reggie Crawford with the 30th and final pick of the first round of the MLB Draft on Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Crawford, a left-handed pitcher and first baseman, was the first 2022 Draftee to be announced with a two-way designation. He wields a plus slider and touched triple digits with his fastball while pitching for Team USA last summer, but he logged only 7 2/3 innings on the mound for the Huskies in 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last fall.

Crawford sat out the 2022 campaign while rehabbing his arm, but he also flashed his big left-handed power at the plate by slugging 13 home runs over 51 games last year. The 21-year-old batted .309 with a .362 on-base percentage over two years at UConn while primarily playing first base.

Listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Crawford is viewed as a high-upside -- but also risky -- pick for the Giants, who found themselves selecting at the end of the first round after posting an MLB-best 107-55 record in 2021.

“We think he’s an exceptional talent,” senior director of amateur scouting Michael Holmes said. “He’s got the ability to develop as a hitter and as a pitcher. We saw a lot of him in high school and then at UConn and then obviously with Team USA last summer. I think we thought it was an opportunity to take advantage of picking at the back of the first round but getting a top first-round talent. I think if the season would have played out with him being on the field and not being injured, he would have gotten out and proven that, and the Draft would have shown so.”

The Giants have a total bonus pool of $5,793,200 this year, including a recommended slot value of $2,485,500 for the No. 30 pick.

Crawford had committed to transferring to Tennessee, but he confirmed that he planned to sign with the Giants and turn pro this summer. Now eight months removed from Tommy John surgery, Crawford is throwing out to 150 feet and expects to be cleared to throw off the mound in the next few weeks, though he probably won’t pitch competitively until Spring Training 2023. He could make his return as a hitter before then, as he’s on track to take live batting practice toward the end of July and could see game action in Arizona as a designated hitter later this year.

Two-way players remain rare around baseball, though the emergence of Angels All-Star Shohei Ohtani has made teams more open to giving top prospects a chance to develop as both pitchers and hitters.

“I’m really happy and I’m really thankful that they are willing to let me try it out,” said Crawford, who was ranked the No. 80 prospect in the 2022 Draft class by MLB Pipeline. “It’s one of those things where whatever works works and whatever doesn’t doesn’t. You have to live in reality about it. Initially, I am so thankful that they’re allowing me to do both.”

A native of Frackville, Pa., Crawford grew up primarily rooting for the Phillies, but he has a connection to San Francisco through his uncle, Frank Vernusky. When he was six or seven years old, Crawford flew to the Bay Area to attend the 2007 All-Star Game at AT&T Park with Vernusky, who purchased a souvenir jacket that his nephew wore during his Zoom call with reporters on Sunday night.

“You don’t understand how excited he was,” Crawford said of his uncle. “He was so pumped up. He was happy.”

Crawford is the fifth consecutive college player to be drafted by the Giants in the first round, joining catcher Joey Bart (2018), outfielder Hunter Bishop (2019), catcher Patrick Bailey (2020) and right-hander Will Bednar (2021).

The Giants continued to take the college route in the second round, selecting East Carolina left-hander Carson Whisenhunt with the No. 66 pick. Whisenhunt was the 30th-ranked prospect entering the Draft, though he was forced to sit out his junior season after receiving a year-long suspension from the NCAA for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug that he said came from a supplement he purchased at a national nutrition store chain.

Whisenhunt, 21, returned to action in the Cape Cod League this summer and continued to flash promising stuff, including one of the best changeups in the Draft. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound lefty logged a 3.77 ERA with 79 strikeouts over 62 innings for East Carolina in 2021 and was named a preseason First-Team All-American heading into this year.

“He’s another guy that obviously we like on the mound quite a bit,” Holmes said. “He’s a big, tall left-hander. We think he’s got an arsenal to attack both righties and lefties. He’s got the ability to soften the baseball. He can change directions with his breaking ball, and he’s got an effective fastball that he can command. A starter’s mix for Carson.”

The slot value for the No. 66 pick is $1,050,000.

The Draft continues today with rounds 3-10. will stream all nine rounds, starting at 11 a.m. PT, with one minute between picks. The Draft concludes with rounds 11-20 on Tuesday, starting at 11 a.m. PT, with no delay between selections, all heard on