The New York Mets came away with one of the top prep bats in the 2020 class. Pete Crow-Armstrong could be patrolling center for a long time.
The New York Mets selected Pete Crow-Armstrong 19th overall in the 2020 MLB Draft. In a year that was incredibly college heavy due to the lack of a high school baseball season, the Mets still went for a prep bat. This is the third straight year they’ve done so.
Crow-Armstrong is very young, he just turned 18 years old in March. He graduated from Harvard-Westlake HS in California which pushes out major leaguers at an incredible rate. In recent years they’ve sent Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito, and Max Fried all to the majors. They know how to develop baseball players.
After the 2019 high school season ended, Crow-Armstrong figured to be a lock to be in the conversation for the first overall pick. However, his numbers took a dip in summer league and that combined with prospect fatigue — scouts have been talking about him since he was 15 — dragged him down the board.
He was starting to rebuild his draft stock in 2020 when he hit .514 in 42 at-bats before COVID-19 ended the season. That may turn out to be a stroke of incredible luck for the Mets. They just drafted a guy who likely would have been a top-10 pick, at the least, had he gotten to play his senior season.
20 – Awful
30 – Well Below Average
40 – Below Average
45 – Fringe Average
50 – Average
55 – Above Average
60 – Plus
65 – Plus-Plus
70 – Well Above Average
80 – Elite
Hit – 60
Crow-Armstrong’s offensive profile is carried by his hit tool. He makes hard contact consistently due to his elite bat speed. Concerns over his hit tool cropped up when his strikeouts spiked in the summer of 2019, but those seem overblown. He has a history of making a lot of loud contact and continued to do so in the truncated 2020 season. He struck out just once in 42 at-bats.
The real concern for Crow-Armstrong’s hit tool is about his ability to hit breaking balls. Prep hitters are risky because a number of them haven’t seen a strong breaking ball in their life. Crow-Armstrong is different, having played for Team USA since he was 12. That doesn’t mean the concern is gone.
Crow-Armstrong is aggressive at the plate and trusts that he can make contact. He’s usually right, but that attitude could get him in trouble against professional level breaking balls.
If Crow-Armstrong’s hit tool hits its ceiling, he could hit .300 or better consistently in his career. It’s more likely that he’ll over around .280-.290 with an occasional .300 season due to how heavily reliant on BABIP his profile is.
Power – 40
Crow-Armstrong’s power is a major concern for some scouts. It grades out as below-average due to the lack of home runs. He’s likely never going to be a 20 home run hitter in his career.
He has the frame to take advantage of power, standing at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, but he doesn’t use it. That may change when he adds more muscle as his body fills out, but many scouts question that home run power will develop based on his approach at the plate.
He doesn’t have a launch angle swing and he doesn’t drive the ball with regularity. He’s more of a slap hitter with gap power right now and that may never change.
If Crow-Armstrong hits his absolute ceiling, he could be a 20 home run guy, but that would mean a lot of changes to his approach that wouldn’t make sense. A more realistic outlook is a guy who hovers around 10-15 home runs every season.
Speed – 60
Speed is one of Crow-Armstrong’s greatest strengths. He uses it in the outfield for his defense and he can be a terror on the basepaths. He led the U18 USA team in stolen bases in 2019 with four in just nine games.
As he progresses through the minors, the Mets will likely look to build up his base-stealing ability, as they have with Andres Gimenez. Look for Crow-Armstrong to develop into a player who steals 30-plus bases a year.
On top of that, Crow-Armstrong will also turn his speed into extra bases. He’s got an excellent eye for when he can turn a single into a double. That ability to get an extra-base wherever he can will help make up for the lack of in-game power.
Arm – 60
A laser for an arm in centerfield — that’s Crow-Armstrong. He routinely guns runners down and would be more than capable of playing in a corner spot in a pinch because of his arm strength.
His plus arm is a huge advantage for him in centerfield. It often sets him apart from other strong defenders and helps make him elite.
His arm should only get better as his body fills out and he works on the accuracy as he comes up through the minors. Don’t be shocked if Crow-Armstrong has the best arm of any centerfielder in baseball when he makes his MLB debut.
Defense – 70
Pete Crow-Armstrong could step onto an MLB field today and his defense wouldn’t be out of place. There’s no question that Crow-Armstrong will be able to stick in centerfield. He’s a well-above-average defender with the potential to be elite.
There is no weakness in his defensive game. His jumps are phenomenal, his routes are spectacular, he has plus speed that makes him the rangiest centerfielder in the 2020 class, and his plus arm makes him a threat even if he doesn’t catch the ball.
As his body fills out, he’ll only get better. A stronger arm, more speed, and a better understanding of his physical traits will all help him develop into one of the best defenders in baseball.
Crow-Armstrong has Gold Glove potential defensively. It would be a shock if he didn’t win at least one before he retires. That’s why he’s one of the safest prospects in this draft class.
Even if Crow-Armstrong’s bat doesn’t develop as the Mets hope, he’ll still provide value with his elite defense and speed off the bench.
That’s why his ceiling is similar to that of Lorenzo Cain and his floor is similar to Manuel Margot.