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2023 D50: Prospect #10

Updated: Mar 18, 2023


Each post will feature these words, so feel free to skip accordingly. I offer the same always-standing apologies for the lackluster quality of my writing, as well as the stream of consciousness nature that I write with. I sincerely wish that I was better at writing than I am but, alas, here we are. Also, I'm very good at this as compared to most, but I am still VERY bad at it. Just think about that for a second, for context purposes.

I want to start off by reminding everyone that these posts are aided and enhanced by the works of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball America, and Prospects Live. Each embedded link will take you to their subscription pages and you should absolutely do that. Shout out to Geoff Pontes and Matt Thompson from Baseball America and Prospects Live, respectfully, because they're awesome. FanGraphs stats are OBVIOUSLY clutch and awesome, and that's why they are used in nearly every "Dirty" post. LOVE that FanGraphs.

Accordingly, @Cardinalsgifs provides his artistic touch to the pictures in each article, and I wouldn't do this at all if he wasn't a part of it. Special shoutout to @KareemSSN who is a must follow for Cardinals prospects stuff. His partner in crime is @Cardinalsreek and they have their own prospect list coming out soon!! Shoutout to Blake Newberry (@BT_Newberry) and Mr. Brian Walton (@B_Walton) for their work on their list over at The Cardinal Nation, too.

I also want to remind everyone that my list is different in that I don't include players with rookie eligibility that have made a Major League debut. So, you'll have to look elsewhere for Matthew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, Brendan Donovan, Jake Walsh, Andre Pallante, and ZacK Thompson. Some of these guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway. I'm just trying to get ahead of this because I will 100% be asked about each. I did almost add 32-year-old Rule 5 draft selection Wilking Rodriguez to the list, but decided against it because he's 32-years-old, entering his age 33 season, and the coverage of him will surely be overly saturated by the time that Spring Training gets going. Also, I didn't add recently acquired Jose Fermín because I just don't care at all. I'm sure he'll make a Major League debut at some point in 2023 which will be cool but I just can't find it in me to care about it at all.

The last thing that I'd like to do is remind everyone that this is just a snap shot of THIS moment. I'm not 100% sure what every player on the list has worked on or has been doing this offseason. So, when I'm a little more conservative with a player like, say, Michael McGreevy, it's without the knowledge of what he's worked on this offseason, along with the gains that he's made in the areas that I'm concerned about. You never know when/if things are going to click for a player, and there's more reason now than ever before - with the advancements in modern baseball technologies - for a prospect to catapult themselves from out of nowhere. Vice versa, it's easier than ever for a prospect to fall off into obscurity.

Finally, I'd like to provide links to other sites that rank Cardinals' prospects. The Cardinal Nation, Prospects Live, and Baseball America all have their 2023 lists published, and MLB and FanGraphs will link to their most recent rankings from 2022:

THE CARDINAL NATION (Subscribe to the damn site, dummies) MLB


Catcher Jimmy Crooks ii

Age 21, Turns 22 in July

Drafted in the 4th Round of the 2022 Draft

Listed at 6'1, 210. Bats L/Throws R

I'd like to take a second to point out that I've already been wrong in my initial appraisal of Jimmy Crooks. When the Cardinals drafted him in the 4th round, I pointed out that he had a similar profile to Cardinals Legend Jeremy Martinez, a former 4th round catcher that the Cardinals drafted in 2016 out of USC.

I did not "know" Jimmy Crooks then.

I definitely feel like I "know" Jimmy Crooks wayyyyy better now.

And, boy, is there a lot to both like and to get excited about.

And we stand here in January of 2023, I can say with certainty that the only thing that I do not like about Jimmy Crooks iii is the insufferable puns that I can already see in my head that @C70 and @SarahAnne1212 will shepherd into my timeline because of his last name and because he's a catcher. It's going to be awful, and they should be ashamed of themselves for it.

Before we launch into all of the things to like about Crooks, I'm going to point out that while Crooks was age-appropriate for Low-A last season. However, his experience via the Big 12 Conference in college kind of "priced him out" of that league, for a lack of a more appropriate term that I'm too lazy to think of. I 100% believe that the success and data that Crooks put up in the FSL after being drafted in 2022 is both real and sustainable. I just want to make sure that the appropriate context was provided.

I didn't know a lot about Jimmy Crooks when the Cardinals drafted him, to be completely honest. I had only seen highlights and an interview. Because of how much time I focus on the Cardinals system during the season and the lead-up to the draft, it's easy for players to get drowned out when I'm half-assing researching the hundreds of players that might be drafted. Additional, I'm hyperaware of my lack of ability to accurately evaluate catchers, which means that I tend to not trust my own evaluations even if those evaluations end up being correct. So, I didn't give the initial introduction to Crooks the attention that it deserved.

I've since watched a ton of Crooks, and there isn't anything about him that isn't potentially leGit. Will he be Andrew Knizner or a better version of Andrew Knizner? That remains to be seen. I still don't believe that we've seen the best of Andrew Knizner at the Major League level, so chew on that for awhile. Regardless, Jimmy Crooks possesses every element that you look for in a college draft pick, and with room to grow into everything.

I say "room" to grow into more, but what I mean to say is that Crooks absolutely possesses the desire to be all that he can be. Crooks is a leader and beloved teammate and player. The Oklahoma Sooner faithful absolutely adore Crooks, and pitchers love pitching to him. One day you'll find out that he's your mom and grandparent's favorite players, and that your father actually prefers him over you. Over the years - and I've said this in these write-ups already - I've really come to appreciate the kids that get over-whelming support from whatever collegiate fan base they come. This always comes in the form of unsolicited DM sliding-ins to praise the player. I got A LOT of this with Crooks. Maybe more than I've ever received before For a player in their draft season. Which, of course, isn't a slight against any player that has ever played for ECU because those fans fucking rock and they love to talk about their "guys" (and for the record, with the stream of ECU players that the Cardinals have drafted, none of them came close to the love that Burleson received. Something to think about...)

Upon observing Crooks and perusing the stats, it seems like the issue with his 2022 collegiate season and why he "fell" to the 4th round has everything to do with A) the timing of "when" scouts saw him and B) a little inconsistency putting it all together at one time both at and behind the plate. Had Crooks been able to be more consistently good at the same time then he's a top 100 pick, at least, and probably gone by the end of the 2nd round. Crooks was "good" all season from a production standpoint, but finding it - and putting it together - all at once is what's going to put him on the national radar by the end of the 2023 season. I also think that Crooks's athleticism was underrated come draft time. He's not a burner but he can run a little, and he has some really off the charts baseball I.Q.

In making Jimmy Crooks a top 10 prospect on my list, I am also saying that I believe that Crooks is the exact type player and kid that is perfectly designed to reap the rewards that the Russ Steinhorn teachings will bear. His swing, his approach, and his demeanor at the plate prior to being drafted SCREAMS of a hitter that Steinhorn will have banging on the door in no time. There is probably a change with where he starts his hands and a change to his timing mechanism in his right leg ahead of him, but those will probably be minor.

There is a lot of Alec Burleson and Brendan Donovan in what Crooks does at the plate, if you want some idea of what he's capable of being when he's all together. His ability to work a walk, stay alive in a count, and trust his bat path and bat speed will carry him if he soaks in the teachings. Those teaching will help him to use all of the field as opposed to being so pull-heavy with his slugging. Once again, it's easier said than done but finding this balance and ability without compromising power potential. His ability to learn and adjust to this approach is going to be a key to his development at the dish, but it's a challenge that I have no doubt Crooks is up for.

The other reason why I am being more aggressive with Crooks than most others is because there is REAL power potential in that beautiful swing of his. It's quick and clean and efficient, and our boy can find a barrel and put a jolt into a ball. The power potential aside, I'm very impressed with Crooks's approach at the plate as an aggressive swinger but with plate discipline and pitch recognition. Crooks can use the entire field, but the opposite side is used more when he's just trying to do something with an outside pitch or when in a pitcher's count. I also feel confident that the left-handed swinging Crooks will have some level of success against left-handed pitching as he moves up in the organization because of his approach and swing.

Crooks is certainly going to be able to keep his about 10% walk rate throughout the minors if he stays within himself, and he's probably going to strikeout about 20% of the time as he keeps climbing the minor league ladder, too. Like with Alec Burleson, there is real 20-25 homer power in that swing over a healthy and full season. Of course, being realistic about how taxing it is to be a catcher, it's probably more adequate to say that there's practical 13-16 homer power per minor league season in that bat if he can get to it while continuing to trust himself and his/the process.

SO, I guess the big question with Crooks is his defense. What I know for sure is that Crooks is a quick behind the plate and that pitchers LOVE throwing to him. He plays with a ton of energy, and you can tell that he's relatively polished for such a taxing position. I legitimately have no feel for his arm in part because of how quickly he releases the ball. I've heard his arm best described as "average", but I've heard that about catchers in the past and I've found it to be pretty inaccurate often. Even if it is "average", it plays "up" because of his release and arm speed, as well as his ability to put the throw right on the money. I'm ashamed to say that I do not have his pop times, but he gets his shit going pretty fucking quickly, from my vantage point.

When I went back and watched all of the Palm Beach games available to me that Crooks caught, it became clear that he has the chance to be a well above average defensive backstop. During two different games, the opposing team's broadcast noted that nothing got past Crooks, and that he called a great game. You don't hear this kind of stuff during Minor League broadcasts. Those broadcasters were 100% correct, too.

I guess what I'm saying more than anything about Jimmy Crooks ii is that I believe that he is the type of player and young man that is capable of being the 2022's draft version of Gordon Graceffo as draft pick outside of the top 100 selections that is poised for a quick climb up the MiLB ladder. I truly mean that. He has work to do to go from being a relatively unknown nationally to being a potential top 100 prospect in baseball, but the foundation and building blocks are there. There will be some stumbles along the way, especially for a catching prospect. He's advanced for his age, but it's still going to require patience. Give him time and it'll pay off, but don't be surprised if he's everything that we hope and know he can be Sooner rather than later. I fucking love watching Jimmy Crooks play baseball, and you will, too.

Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis


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