Two-way prospect Crawford to focus on pitching

February 15th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first sign that ’s development plan could be changing came when the Giants released their list of non-roster invitees earlier this month.

Crawford had been designated as a two-way player ever since he was selected in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft, but this time, he was listed strictly as a left-handed pitcher.

On Wednesday, Crawford confirmed that he’s decided to forgo his two-way ambitions and focus on pitching moving forward.

“We’re going to try to figure out how we’re going to plan out [batting practice] a couple of times a week, but the primary focus is pitching,” said Crawford, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline. “I decided on that a few weeks ago, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Giants gave Crawford an opportunity to hit and pitch in the Minors last year after he completed his rehab from Tommy John surgery, but the 23-year-old found it challenging to try to manage his workloads on both sides of the ball. He fashioned a 2.84 ERA with 32 strikeouts over 19 innings in 13 starts between Single-A San Jose and High-A Eugene in 2023, though the Giants capped each outing at two innings and limited him to only 17 at-bats in between starts.

Crawford played in the Arizona Fall League to try to gain more reps as a full-time hitter at the end of the year, but he ended up going only 8-for-58 (.138) with two home runs and 30 strikeouts over 17 games, which helped influence his decision to stick with pitching.

“That gave me feedback of how far behind I was,” Crawford said. “Because it was probably two years-plus removed from the last time I was hitting consistently.

“There was a point in time where I would have sacrificed time to get back to a spot in the box to where I felt comfortable. But I sat down and thought about it for a few weeks, and I was like, ‘I’m not willing to sacrifice time anymore to get to that point, rather than just see what’s right in front of me and run with that.’ That was kind of the thought process going into it.”

The Giants were hoping to get an extended look at Crawford on the mound this spring, but he’s expected to miss the first three to four weeks of his first big league camp with a left lat strain that he suffered while playing catch last week.

Crawford has been focusing on developing his changeup this spring, but he believes the deceleration from the pitch may have ultimately caused his lat to flare up. Still, Crawford said he’s eager to continue to refine the offering, which could help complement his electric 95-97 mph fastball and his sharp mid-80s slider.

Crawford hasn’t played above High-A Eugene, but he could move fast now that he’s fully committed to pitching and won’t have to juggle as many workload restrictions this year.

“It’ll look like your normal starter routine, which will be nice,” Crawford said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”