Deep-Dive On Right-Hander Jeff Criswell
Jeff Criswell enters this year’s MLB Draft as the only University of Michigan player ranked in the Top 100 Draft Prospects list, according to MLB.com. The right-handed Criswell is currently a junior at the University of Michigan and comes in at 6-foot-4-inches, 225 pounds. Criswell originally made his college pitching debut on February 23rd, 2018 against San Diego Toreros. Furthermore, the righty was originally drafted during the 35th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers.
Additionally, Criswell led all University of Michigan pitchers that season with 24 appearances. More recently, Criswell concluded last season with a 2.72 ERA over 22 games which included five relief appearances. In that span, Criswell struck out 116 opposing batters and only gave up 17 extra-base hits.
This year, Criswell made four starts and was designated as the team’s Friday Night starter. In those four starts, Criswell held opposing hitters to a .205 batting average against. Furthermore, against the University of Connecticut on February 21st, Criswell struck out a season-high eight batters.
One of the best things about Criswell is his ability to hold his velocity late into starts. Scouts note that there were several starts where Criswell hit the mid-90’s with each of his three pitches. Additionally, Criswell demonstrated a lot of sinking action over those starts over the span of several innings.
Criswell relies on his slider and his changeup as his secondary pitches. The slider is effective and gets a grade of 55 on the scouting scale. Furthermore, Criswell is able to throw his changeup with a lot of fading action. The fading action is what has caught the attention of plenty of scouts and made teams interested in the 21-year old right-hander.
In addition, another strength of Criswell is his overall build. Scouts believe that his build will allow him to stay healthy over time and gives Criswell an advantage when it comes to missing time due to injury.
The biggest weakness of Criswell is his overall command and control. On the scouting scale, Criswell received a grade of 45 in the control category. Given that the scouting scale slides from a grade of 20-80, it would obviously be in Criswell’s favor to work on that control and ensure that he is able to throw his pitches exactly where they need to go every time.
Many scouts note that if Criswell is able to do that, he will likely be able to turn into a mid-rotation level starting pitcher. However, those same scouts believe that if that doesn’t happen, Criswell might be destined as more of a relief pitcher moving forward.
Additionally, scouts note that sometimes Criswell overthrows his pitches. Granted, that is part of the learning curve for many pitching prospects, but it is something that will need to be ironed out for Criswell to be effective and performing at his highest level.
When you look at Jeff Criswell and his follow-through on the mound, the best comparison that stands out is current Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. Both Criswell and Arrieta come in at the same height and weight. Furthermore, both right-handers drag their feet after they have thrown their pitch. Arrieta might have more muscle mass through his legs, but Criswell can develop that over time.
As you look back over the span of Arrieta’s big-league career, it’s been a rocky one for the most part. After concluding the 2015 regular season as the National League Cy Young Award winner, Arrieta took a step back and hasn’t been able to replicate his success from that season. For instance, last season Arrieta finished the regular season with a 4.64 ERA over 135 and 2/3 innings of work.
Arrieta is a huge sinker ball type of pitcher (he threw that pitch 55.5% of the time in 2019) and in some ways that replicates the sink and fade of Criswell’s fastball. Furthermore, for Arrieta control has been an issue over the past few seasons which is exactly what Criswell is dealing with now.
If Criswell does pan out like Arrieta, then the MLB team that drafts him would likely be pretty excited. That would be especially true if Criswell went onto have a season like Arrieta did in 2015.
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