RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
||Born: September 24, 1984
Height: 6′ 6″
Drafted: 17th Round, 500th Overall, 2006
How Acquired: Draft
College: Florida Atlantic University
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Baseball America described Crotta, when he was drafted, as having a good change, an 88-92 mph fastball, and a splitter. The Pirates believed he had an average fastball and change, but needed to work on a breaking ball. Whatever he was throwing, he certainly got hit hard throughout his college career. He wasn’t pitching in a severe hitters’ environment, either, as his ERAs were well above the team average. As a pro, he’s been an extreme groundball pitcher who’s generally been very hittable, with low BB and K rates. This was a profile that the Pirates loved under Dave Littlefield. Crotta’s velocity, however, has been better than advertised in the last couple years, usually around 91-94, sometimes higher. He sometimes left scouts wondering why he didn’t have more success with the stuff he had. As a reliever for the Pirates in 2011, his velocity sat close to 93, and that was possibly pitching with a sore elbow. His fastball has a great deal of movement, mainly in toward right-handed hitters, and he threw it nearly all the time, with just the occasional slider.
At Williamsport, Crotta had a low ERA, with a somewhat high (for the NYPL) opponents’ BA, a very low walk rate, and a low K rate. The Pirates promoted him to Hickory for four starts and he got torched, with opponents hitting .424 against him. He had a 2.22 ground out to fly out ratio overall and has been above 2.00 every year since.
At Hickory, he again had very few walks, an extremely low K rate, lots of groundballs (2.58 GO/AO ratio), and a lot of hits (.302 opponents’ BA). He had serious problems with LH hitters, who batted .343 against him. He got hammered in one fill-in start for Altoona. The fact that the hits he allowed were predominantly singles kept his ERA within reason. One good sign, though, was greatly improved pitching in July and August, with ERAs of 2.78 and 3.51, although his K rate remained very low.
Crotta had an interesting season at Lynchburg. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pirates wouldn’t allow their minor league pitchers to throw sinkers for much of the season. After their experience with Franquelis Osoria, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want young pitchers just throwing sinkers all the time, which often works fine in the minors but not in the majors. In the last couple months, Crotta resumed throwing sinkers. His ERA through the end of June was 5.65. After that it was 3.70. The primary differences were fewer walks and one HR allowed after June; he still allowed 86 hits in 73.0 IP. He remained an extreme groundball pitcher, with a groundout to air out ratio of 2.74, and increased his K rate. He also continued to have trouble with LH hitters, who batted .310 against him with five HRs, compared to .265 with three HRs in many more ABs for RH hitters.
Crotta spent year in the Altoona rotation. He tended to pitch well in the first couple innings and then start to struggle. I don’t know whether that’s an issue with stamina, or hitters getting used to his stuff the second or third time through the lineup, or some other reason, but his stuff seems good enough that opponents shouldn’t bat over .300 against him, which they did again in 2009 (.304). His K rate remained low. Crotta was eligible for the Rule 5 draft after the season, but wasn’t selected.
Crotta returned to Altoona and pitched so well in his first four starts that he earned a promotion. He did well at times in AAA, but overall returned to his earlier pattern of few walks and Ks, and lots of hits (.305 opp. BA). He had more trouble with RH batters this time, as they hit .324 against him with a lot more power than LH hitters. He remained an extreme groundball pitcher, with ratios of 2.75 in AA and 2.24 in AAA.
In a surprise move, the Pirates added Crotta to the 40-man roster in the off-season and, in another surprise, he won a bullpen spot in spring training. The Pirates obviously believed his tendency to pitch well in the first couple innings of starts showed he could be effective in relief, and they no doubt liked the strong groundball tendency. He got into 15 games, but seemed to struggle more each time out, ending up with a 9.28 ERA and 2.34 WHIP. He then went on the DL with a sore elbow. In retrospect, it seems likely he was pitching hurt. He was also hurt by bad umpiring; pitch tracking showed that he repeatedly threw pitches well within the strike zone, sometimes right down the middle, that were called balls. The umpires evidently couldn’t follow the movement on his fastball, which was considerable. Once Crotta returned, the Pirates optioned hmi to AAA, but they later designated him for assignment when they needed a roster space. He agreed to a minor league deal to stay in the organization. The elbow continued bothering him and he was only able to pitch in a dozen minor league games, none after mid-July.
Crotta was eligible for the Rule 5 draft but wasn’t selected. He was expected to compete for a bullpen job in the spring, but instead missed the entire season after having bone spurs removed from his elbow in April.
Crotta will be eligible for minor league free agency in fall 2012. Hopefully the Pirates can bring him back on a minor league deal. He’s made it much further than it looked like he would while he was posting poor ERAs and .300+ opponents’ batting averages year after year in the minors. He hasn’t had a chance yet to show what he can do as a reliever and it’d be nice to find out, because his stuff looks good enough for him to pitch in the majors.
|2012: Minor League Salary|
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 4/3/2011
MiLB FA Eligible: 2012
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 11/19/2010 (Removed 7/31/2011)
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2011)
MLB Service Time: 0.089
|June 4, 2003: Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 47th round, 1392nd overall pick.
June 7, 2006: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 17th round, 500th overall pick; signed on June 9.
November 19, 2010: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
July 31, 2011: Placed on waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
August 11, 2011: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates to a minor league contract.