Criswell caught my attention last year and became a solid draft prospect in my mind when he pitched for Michigan against Vanderbilt in the College World Series. Criswell showed good stuff in his 5.0 innings of work. Criswell has a starter’s body standing 6’4” with wide shoulders and strong legs. With MLB moving the second round of the Draft to the second day for 2020 Draft, Criswell looks to be an early Day Two pick. Criswell beat Vandy in his first 2020 start but struggled the next weekend against UConn. He has since turned it around and will continue to improve.
Criswell throws a 4-seam fastball that ranges 93 to 96 early touching higher at times. He sometimes seems to lose his velo in the middle innings working 90-94 but brings his velo back up close to the end of his starts. The 4-seam looks fairly straight but Criswell can work it in all four quadrants of the strike zone.
Criswell also throws a curve. The pitch is usually working in the low-80s but might be too close to his change up velocity. Criswell’s curve wobbles from 12-6 to an 11-5 shape from the catcher’s perspective. The pitch has good spin and really good movement. Hitters don’t seem to recognize the pitch until it’s too late to get a good swing. Criswell can work it on the back foot of left-handed hitters or throw it for a backdoor strike. Right-handed hitters sometimes buckle and lean back as the pitch takes a dive into the strike zone leaving them helpless. Just as a hitter finally thinks he has found a mistake to crush, this pitch disappears leaving them swinging at air.
Many people called Criswell’s change up his best pitch in 2019. The change has good arm side run and tumble. Personally, I feel like he needs to use it more, especially against righties when he is behind in the count or working for a first pitch strike. Like his curve, hitters don’t see this pitch very well and are routinely fooled by it.
Criswell has a quiet windup moving his hands over his head while taking his rocker step. He is smooth and deceptively athletic. He gets good velocity out of his body that looks to be built for a high load of innings.
Criswell can make any play he needs too. Early in the season, Criswell picked up a slow roller on the first base side and beat an extremely fast Vandy leadoff hitter to first base for an out. Criswell had to run it himself because his first baseman came off the bag too far. If he doesn’t take the ball himself, the runner is safe. I’ve also seen him catch jam shot popups to the mound with ease.
Criswell made a good start on MLB Network to start the 2020 season against Vanderbilt. He showed no body language or emotion until late in the game and held his emotions in check throughout. Criswell has the build, the mentality, and the stuff to be a starter. He should be a consistent innings-eating righty for whoever drafts him.
Criswell is one of the pitchers I’m targeting at 76. There is no guarantee that he will be available, but I’m interested for sure. I expect someone will take him between the Royals 41st and 76th pick, but it’s a risk we take if we are targeting the best player available that has dropped at 41. Personally, I’m looking for bats early this year because the pitching class is so deep. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s eventually what I do in my Shadow Draft. But, that’s what I’m thinking on Saturday before the draft.
Criswell would fit right in with the third tier of pitchers the Royals have in their system. He isn’t in the second group with Bubic and Bowlan, but he’d be in the group with Haake, Cox, Heasley, Marsh, Del Rosario, Gambrell, and Hernandez. I could be undervaluing him, but I do really like Criswell.
Make sure you check out the other names we’ve looked at in the 2020 MLB Draft Profile library!
Photo from The Michigan Daily. No photographer was given credit.