It may be the offseason for some, but Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford saw his first in-game action in nearly a month on Thursday night.
Crawford started for Las Estrellas Orientales as they went up against Tigres del Licey in their second game of the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo.
Over four impressive innings of work, Crawford kept the Tigres off the scoreboard while yielding just one hit and one walk to go along with a pair of strikeouts on 55 pitches — 34 of which were strikes.
After retiring each of the first five batters he faced, Crawford issued a two-out single to Dawel Lugo in the bottom half of the second that saw his no-hit bid come to an end. He then stranded Lugo by getting Mets prospect Ronny Mauricio to pop out to second base.
A one-out walk of Diamondbacks minor-leaguer Nick Heath in the third put another base runner on for Tigres, but Crawford again responded by sitting down each of the final five hitters he faced in order going into the top of the fifth inning.
While Estrellas ultimately fell to Tigres by a final score of 9-1 on Thursday, Crawford was certainly solid in what may have very well been his first outing outside of the United States.
The 25-year-old right-hander is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, Crawford was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and missing all of 2020 while recovering from it and an additional procedure on his right elbow, the Florida native opened the 2021 season with Double-A Portland.
In 10 starts for the Sea Dogs, Crawford posted a 3.30 ERA and 2.80 xFIP to go along with 64 strikeouts to just five walks over 46 1/3 innings pitched before earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late July.
Less than two months into his stint with the WooSox, Crawford had his contract selected by the Red Sox on September 5 while the big-league club navigated its way through a COVID-19 outbreak.
On that same day, Crawford made his first career major-league start against the Indians at Fenway Park, allowing five runs — all of which were earned — on five hits, two walks, and two strikeouts over two-plus innings in an eventual loss.
The Red Sox promptly optioned Crawford back down to Worcester the following day, and the righty closed out the season having put up a 5.21 ERA (but much more respectable 3.73 xFIP) and 67:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 10 appearances (nine starts) spanning 48 1/3 innings pitched at the Triple-A level.
On Sept. 21, Crawford was recognized as the team’s Lou Gorman Award recipient, which is given to a Red Sox minor-leaguer “who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the major-league team.”
As of the offseason progresses, it should be kept in mind that Crawford is one of several Red Sox minor-leaguers who can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if they are not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by a certain date: November 20.
Crawford previously spent time on the Sox’ 40-man roster earlier this summer, but only for COVID-19-related purposes as he was removed from the 40-man without having to be exposed to waivers.
This time around, however, the Red Sox could risk losing Crawford via this December’s Rule 5 Draft if they choose not to protect him by adding the hurler to their 40-man roster.
When speaking with The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey recently, Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham seemed confident that Crawford would remain in the organization heading into major-league spring training next year. We will have to wait and see on that.
(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Estrellas Orientales/Twitter)