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I should not be in charge of any team’s draft…but if I were then OF/2B CJ Krowiak would be at or near the top of my pile of potential senior-signs. Krowiak is a glider in center with the plus speed to chew up plus range in the outfield. He’s also an outstanding athlete with phenomenal hand-eye coordination who puts a ton of balls in play without striking out much. He’s going to fall much further (farther?) on draft day than he should. This isn’t to say that I think he’s a lock to have pro success and turn into a big league regular. I’m just saying I think Krowiak has a high probability of having a long career as a useful pro with enough upside to turn into a contributing big league role player if everything breaks right. There’s certainly value there and my hypothetical team would be more than happy to scoop Krowiak up once some of the higher upside priority targets were off the board.
C/1B Jason Agresti is another quality Binghamton senior-sign. He’s solid enough defensively to stick with enough power and patience to give you a little something at the plate. A capable defensive catcher with enough offensive promise to be a non-zero with the bat in his hands? It may sound like damning with faint praise, but that’s a good enough all-around package to get a shot in pro ball for me. This may shock you, but I think SS Paul Rufo could also be a useful senior-sign. He’s not flashy at the plate or in the field, but he consistently gets results. Like both Krowiak and Agresti before him, Rufo is good enough to stick at a premium defensive position while giving you enough offensive punch to potentially move up level by level in pro ball. You can’t ask for more than that as you fill out minor league rosters late in the draft.
Ouch, ouch, and ouch. Those were literally the words I wrote down next to each of Binghamton’s most promising 2018 pitching prospects after checking in on their early season results to date. All three of these guys have been unusually wild while posting ugly ERAs. For RHP Jacob Wloczewski, a redshirt-senior facing his last shot going through the draft process, the timing could not be much worse. A strong 2017 made it seem like he had turned the corner, but now more digging would be needed to see what version is the real version of the 6-3, 180 pound righthander. He has enough in the way of stuff to at least be moderately interesting — 88-92 FB (93 peak) with a quality 79-80 SL — but will have to turn it around in a hurry to convince teams he’s worth a late pick. RHP Joe Orlando, also a senior, has his back up against the proverbial draft prospect wall as well. He’s shorter with less of a breaking ball — though no less velocity, so at least there’s that — and a reliever all the way. Even in today’s game where seemingly every pro reliever comes in throwing mid-90s missiles, any guy who can pop 93 MPH is at least some kind of draft prospect for me. Orlando may not be a particularly promising one, unfortunately, but at least he is one. That’s more than my rag arm can say. The guy with the lowest current velocity (upper-80s) of the trio, RHP Nick Gallagher, may be in the best spot. That’s not necessarily because of his great changeup, but because he’s a junior who will get another shot to prove himself next season.
rSR RHP Jacob Wloczewski (2018)
JR RHP Nick Gallagher (2018)
SR RHP Joe Orlando (2018)
SR RHP Jake Erhard (2018)
JR RHP Cal Lawrence (2018)
JR LHP Robert Brown (2018)
SR LHP/1B Nick Wegmann (2018)
SR OF/2B CJ Krowiak (2018)
SR C/1B Jason Agresti (2018)
SR SS Paul Rufo (2018)
SR 3B/1B Luke Tevlin (2018)
SR OF Pat Britt (2018)
rSO OF Daniel Franchi (2018)
JR OF Anthony Meduri (2018)
SO RHP Ben Anderson (2019)
SO RHP Jake Miller (2019)
SO 3B Justin Drpich (2019)
FR LHP Reid VanScoter (2020)
FR OF Andrew Eng (2020)
C – Erik Ostberg
1B – Casey Baker
2B – Ben Prada
SS – Ben Bengtson
3B – TJ Ward
OF – Toby Handley, CJ Krowiak, Andrew Casali
The only tier one player in the conference this year is Erik Ostberg, a hitting machine with a strong arm behind the plate and solid speed on the basepaths. The man is currently hitting an even .500, so any questions about his bat can be referred right back to that nice round figure. I feel a little bit about Ostberg as I do Drew Ellis of Louisville. In both cases, the bat is so appealing that I’m willing to overlook some of the defensive questions. If Ostberg can catch — I think he can, for what it’s worth — then he’s a slam dunk top hundred prospect for me (probably…I shouldn’t say things like that without actually beginning to set up a board). If he can’t, then he’s strong enough with the stick to remain a viable prospect somewhere lower (first base, presumably) on the defensive spectrum. I’m all-in on Ostberg.
In almost any other year, a player like Hunter Dolshun would get the honors as top catcher in the conference. Again, it may be a bit too early to make such broad proclamations, but I feel good about the claim that Dolshun is one of the physically strongest players in his class. You know you’re getting that tremendous strength, plus raw power, and a patient hitter when taking a shot on Dolshun. You may or may not know what you’re getting defensively; some I’ve chatted up are sold that he can make it work behind the plate while others think he’s a little too stiff. I think he’s good enough back there, but, really, it may not matter all that much depending on how far he drops. At some point in the draft you know you’re getting imperfect prospects and I think that’s the range when Dolshun will likely go off the board. Can he catch? Don’t know for sure, but I’ll sure as heck not stress about it either way once he slips past the first few rounds (or later if a team doesn’t buy him as a high-value senior-sign in rounds eight/nine/ten).
I know little about both Christopher Bec and Zack Bright, but both had the kind of draft year production that gets you on the radar. Evan Harasta, Jason Agresti, and David Real are all quality mid- to late-round options as well. Harasta has more power than he’s shown, Agresti is a good albeit too aggressive hitter, and Real, a transfer from Arizona, shows strong control of the strike zone.
Casey Baker gets the nod over some stiff competition in an unusually deep year of America East first base prospects. Justin Yurchak is the clear 1b to Baker’s 1a, but the latter narrowly edges out the former on the basis of slightly more interesting raw power. You really can’t go wrong with either pick, though. I’ve long been a fan of David MacKinnon for similar reasons (hit tool, approach, athleticism, defense) while also being a little wary of him going forward for the same potential fatal flaw (lack of pop for the position). I’m more excited to take natural hitters with some power upside rather than huge power guys without much of a clue how to consistently make contact, so keep that potential bias in mind as you peruse my rankings.
Ben Bengtson (1-1 potential if draft standing was based on likelihood I spell your name wrong between now and June) has a long history of big offense with more than enough athleticism and bat speed (plus a fine approach) to give confidence he’s more than beating up on inferior pitching. The high level of certainty he sticks at shortstop — as close to a lock as it gets in this college class for me — is icing on the cake. Ben Prada takes second base based on the two sweetest words in the English language; I couldn’t find any other noteworthy 2017 America East middle infielders outside of Prada, Bengtson, and Paul Rufo, but I’m open to suggestions if you know of anybody I’m missing. TJ Ward could belong with that group if a team believes he can play shortstop in the pros. I like him best at third, clearly.
I know I’ve referenced this before, but I can’t help but do it again.
Toby Handley has always been known as a quality runner who could catch and throw in center field. His senior year power spike is something smart teams should be looking into as much as feasible this spring. Change in approach? Change in swing? Change in body? Or just a combination of a smaller sample and advanced age working in concert to inflate his output? I don’t have the answers yet. In the past I’ve been incredulous about big senior season jumps like this (.089 ISO to .235 ISO), but I randomly happened to look back at what I wrote about Garrett Stubbs, a huge pro favorite at the moment, when he was a senior at USC. I had the same questions about his senior year power boost; no two players follow identical developmental paths so maybe this isn’t as instructive a flashback as I’d like to think, but so far so good with the “realness” of Stubbs’s growth. Handley isn’t Stubbs 2.0, of course; I’m just saying that dismissing a senior year bump, something I’ve done too readily in the past, can cause you to miss out on some pretty good players. Don’t sleep on Handley just because he’s a senior is the overarching message, I suppose.
Andrew Casali hasn’t made quite the same senior season power gains — if anything he’s showing less this year — but he offers a similar package of speed and defense in center field. Casali also makes a ton of contact and has a keen awareness of what constitutes a ball vs a strike. Everything good about Casali applies just as easily to CJ Krowiak. A pre-season FAVORITE, Krowiak is an easy plus runner and defender in center who is both a sensational athlete and a true student of the game. I think the best is yet to come for him.
Other prospects that received consideration…
C – Hunter Dolshun, Christopher Bec, Evan Harasta, Jason Agresti, David Real, Zack Bright
1B – Justin Yurchak, Jamie Switalski, David MacKinnon, Andrew Gazzola, Brendan Skidmore
2B – N/A
SS – Paul Rufo
3B – N/A
OF – Connor Powers, Tyler Schwanz, Colby Maiola, Nick Campana, Collin Stack