Draft Watch 1998: Bubba Crosby

Bubba Crosby, OF, Rice University, Jr., 5-11, 185 lbs.

Bubba Crosby is a lefty-swinging outfielder out of Houston who generates tremendous power from a strong lower body and an uppercut stroke that gets through the hitting zone in a hurry. He hits from a crouch, weight on his back foot, a la George Brett or Phil Plantier, and uncoils on the pitch as it arrives.

Overshadowed last season by Lance Berkman, a 1st-round pick of the Houston Astros in June 1997, Crosby still was named to the all Western Athletic Conference team and now finds himself in a position similar to that of Berkman a year ago, i.e., to be a high 1st round pick in the June draft. Baseball America, in its Early Draft Preview, named the first-team All-American the #12 prospect in the nation. The same publication touted Crosby as the 7th best college prospect in the preseason; he has since moved up a slot to #6.

The night I saw him, against San Diego State, at Tony Gwynn Stadium, Crosby was coming back from some kind of an injury and didn’t play the field, so I don’t know what kind of an outfielder he is. I was still driving to the park during his first at bat, but in his second trip to the plate, after swinging and missing at the first offering from the Aztecs’ right hander Chad Wanders, he hit a solid line drive to straightaway center that was caught for an out. His next time up, Crosby swatted Wanders’ first pitch 450 feet, onto the roof of a building out behind right field. In his fourth time up to bat, he hit a towering popup to third base on a 2-1 pitch. And in his last at bat, Crosby hung in nicely against a lefty, slashing a grounder through the left side of the infield for an RBI single.

Because of his extreme uppercut stroke, Crosby will hit his share of fly balls. He may never hit .300, but with his leg strength, solid mechanics, and quick bat, many of the fly balls he hits will land in the cheap seats.

Jeff Nichols, RHP, Rice University, So., 6-3, 190 lbs.

Okay, I know this was supposed to be about Bubba Crosby, and I know Nichols won’t be drafted this year, but this is a guy to keep an eye on for 1999. As a freshman, Nichols tied Matt Anderson (1st pick overall, Detroit Tigers, 1997 draft) for the team lead in wins, with 10, on a team that ended up ranked #8 in the country. He lost only 2 games that year, posting a 3.42 ERA over 108 innings, while allowing only 104 hits. He also had a solid K/BB ratio of 71/31 and even came in to save a game.

Nichols has a real easy three-quarters delivery; he reminds me a bit of Padres’ right hander Andy Ashby, both in body type and in pitching style. I don’t know how hard he was throwing, but guys were fouling balls off to the opposite field all night. He also showed good composure on the mound, bouncing back nicely after uncorking a wild pitch that plated the first run and seeming relatively unconcerned by the 6 (!) errors his defense committed behind him. The only thing that appeared to be lacking in his repertoire was a true strikeout pitch: He often got ahead of hitters, but then failed to put them away.

We’ll have a better idea of where Nichols stands next year. When he comes out to San Diego I’ll chart his game and keep everyone updated on his progress. But so far, he looks pretty good.

Update: 5/27/98

Bubba Crosby

 AVG  AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB
.401 207  73  83 15  3 23  84  42  25   2

Crosby has had an outstanding season at Rice. In the June 8-21, 1998, issue of Baseball America he is ranked #20 among draft prospects, and the top collegiate outfielder. He is rated the third best college power hitter (behind Miami’s Pat Burrell and UCLA’s Eric Valent) and the third fastest baserunner (behind Texas A&M’s Jason Tyner and Wichita State’s Zach Sorenson). Crosby is also ranked #5 among Texas prospects. I earlier compared him to Phil Plantier, but that was before I learned he plays center field. When I saw Crosby, he was coming back from a hamstring injury which kept him from playing the field. His height (6’0″) is really his only weakness, and from everything I’ve read about the guy, that won’t get in his way. Think Mark Kotsay, but with more power.

Jeff Nichols

I don’t have his numbers handy, but he has been invited to Team USA.

Damon Thames

 AVG  AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB
.422 268  84 113 33  7 26 113  13  35   3

I didn’t mention Thames in the original report, frankly because he didn’t impress me all that much when I saw him. But since he had a pretty monstrous season, and since he’s now getting some play as a guy who could get drafted in the first five rounds of the June draft, I guess I should talk about him at least a little.

Thames is a junior college transfer, out of Humble, Texas. He’s a wiry kid (6’1″, 170 lbs) with good power from the right side of the plate. In the game I saw him play, he went 2 for 5, with a double and a homer. Both of his hits were on first-pitch fastballs and were yanked down the left field line. In my notes from that game, I wrote of Thames: “long, uneven swing; leads with upper body.” Unless he makes some adjustments, his long swing and lack of patience at the plate will ultimately be exploited as he reaches the high minors and the pitchers start throwing him good breaking balls and change-ups.

As a fielder, Thames has good hands, but his arm will probably force a move to a less demanding defensive position. When I saw him, he bounced two throws to first, and neither on plays that were particularly difficult for a shortstop to make.

If Thames can hit professional pitching, especially at higher levels, his bat may be able to withstand a move to third base. But those gaudy 1998 numbers aside, I remain skeptical of his hitting ability; a switch to second base seems more likely, where he might actually develop into a useful major league player.

Comments are closed.