We're behind. With just 18 days until Spring Training, we're going to have to pull some double duty in order to get the entire 40-man roster previewed before pitchers and catchers report. Today, we'll take a look at Casey Crosby, the current "7th starter" in the Tigers rotation.
What happened last season?
I thought about combining Crosby into a post with a couple other guys because he probably won't see the majors this season, other than maybe for a spot start or two. This was the same role he played in 2012, where he was 1-1 with a 9.49 ERA (!) in three starts for the Tigers. Getting shelled by the New York Yankees isn't exactly the end of the world for a young pitcher, but he also was unable to get through four innings against the Colorado Rockies*. He got his only win in a game against the Cleveland Indians with a solid 5 1/3 inning effort, allowing three runs.
Other than those three games, Crosby spent the rest of the year at Triple A, where he showed some of the same wildness we saw in his three major league starts. He had 65 walks in just 125 2/3 innings, a rate of 4.66 free passes per nine innings. He has the stuff to be effective, as his 8.02 strikeouts per 9 innings shows.
*It probably doesn't help that this was the excruciatingly painful game where the Tigers bullpen allowed 8 runs in extra innings and we all wanted heads to roll afterward.
What needs to happen in 2013?
Stop. Walking. Guys. If he can get his command in check, Crosby has the stuff to be a decent back-end starter in the big leagues. He looked a bit overmatched in the majors in 2012, but the 11 walks in 12 1/3 innings didn't help his cause one bit. Even a small decline in walk rate would make a huge difference. For instance, Crosby walked 12.1% of the batters he faced in Triple A last year. If he decreases that rate to 9% (and everything else remains the same), his WHIP declines from 1.41 to 1.28. In terms of WHIP alone, this is like going from Rick Porcello to Max Scherzer.
The part where I say stuff to get you way more excited about Crosby than you should be, then crush your dreams
The worst case scenario with Crosby -- apart from complete tragedy and whatnot -- is that he keeps walking guys, the organization calls him up anyway, and the Tigers lose lots of games. So, basically, the same thing he did last year.
However, if Crosby is able to get his command under control and establish himself as a viable starter, this creates a very good problem for the Tigers. Crosby's trade value skyrockets -- which still isn't saying much because of how low it is to begin with -- and he also could make one of Porcello or Drew Smyly expendable, in that Crosby could be viewed as the reliable sixth starter we currently have in one of those other two. Obviously, this is a best-best-best case scenario, but it's still (slightly) plausible in the mind of someone who knows next to nothing about prospects.
As for what we will actually see, I don't know that the command issues will be solved overnight... or ever. Crosby will probably improve on his Triple A numbers from last season, but the walk rate will still be higher than anyone on this site is comfortable with.