San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Kyle Crick generates mixed opinions among evaluators and fans. While nobody doubts his arm strength or raw talent, how that talent translates into future major league performance is unclear. Some people see him as a future top of the rotation starter. Some see him as a potential closer, and there are some very respected evaluators who think he's just a set-up guy.
I am among the optimists about Crick and ranked him at Number 31 on my mid-season Top 75 Prospects Update, but recognize that you can build a good case in the opposite direction.
Crick's last few starts have demonstrated both his strengths and weaknesses. On July 25th he allowed one run in six innings, walking four but fanning 11. On July 31st he lasted just one inning, giving up four hits and four runs. He skipped his next start due to a sore back, but returned to pitch four shutout innings on August 10th, fanning five guys but walking three. On the season he has a 3.32 ERA for Double-A Richmond, 3.95 FIP, with a 104/55 K/BB in 86.2 innings, allowing 76 hits.
Sabermetrically-speaking, the strikeout rate is excellent and a great marker for his future. The walks are too high, of course, and his FIP is about a run higher than it was last year in A-ball. Scouting reports from people who have seen Crick in person match the numbers very well: he's up to 98 MPH, but has problems with command, particularly with his secondary pitches. His slider, change-up, and cutter all flash as quality pitches but are inconsistent.
Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus filed a detailed eyewitness report on Crick back in early June and wasn't particularly enthusiastic, saying that it was "unusual to see a pitcher holding 95-98 velocity and come away unimpressed," projecting Crick as a late-inning reliever but perhaps not a closer, due to command troubles and erratic secondaries. Other reports from the May/early June time period are similar, although observers who saw him during a run of high-strikeout games in late June and July were more impressed, noting progress with his fastball location and a better slider.
I haven't seen Crick in person this year so this opinion is based on what others have seen, video, and on the stats. My thoughts are pretty much the same as they were pre-season: we have to expect growing pains and Crick is not a guy that you want to rush, but if he avoids serious injuries I think he has a decent chance to come around. Part of that may be because I simply trust the Giants more than most teams with pitching development, which may or may not be a valid input into the evaluative process. Strikeouts may be fascist but I prefer pitchers to be authoritarian rather than democratic.
The command troubles raise the risk, but in my view Crick can still be a starter and a good one. That is likely a minority opinion, but we'll see.