2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic featured an impressive
collection of arms, many of which became top picks in the 2012
First-Year Player Draft. Among the top 50 draftees that year were PG
All-Americans Lucas Giolito (Nationals), Max Fried (Padres), Lance
McCullers (Astros) and Matt Smoral (Blue Jays).
went the collegiate route. Carson Fulmer bypassed the Red Sox for
Vanderbilt, and Mitchell Traver chose his commitment
to TCU over the Astros.
other PG All-Americans that year had commitments to Clemson
University: Lucas Sims, Clate Schmidt and Matthew Crownover. Sims
signed with Atlanta after being drafted No. 21 overall. Schmidt
passed on an opportunity with the Detroit Tigers to become a Clemson
Tiger. And Crownover – the 6-foot southpaw who fanned a pair and
was clocked at 92 mph in his PG All-American game appearance – went
undrafted. But not because he wasn't good enough.
was injured in the second outing of his senior year at Ringgold High
School in his hometown of Ringgold, Ga. A few days later, on March 5
– his 19th birthday – Crownover was told he had a torn
UCL, ending his high school career.
John Surgery followed. After rehabbing twice a day for four months,
Crownover – now at Clemson – returned to the mound 11 months
after surgery. His first weekend start came against top-ranked North
Carolina. Crownover's Tigers knocked off the previously 22-1 Tar
Heels in extra innings, no doubt a big win for Clemson. But for
Crownover, that moment meant something more.
was satisfying to know that I worked my butt off to get to that
point,” Crownover told Perfect Game earlier this week. “I wasn't
exactly myself at full strength, but I was back and competing again.”
not yet at full strength, Crownover mowed down ACC opponents to the
tune of a 1.73 ERA in seven conference starts. Nothing short of a
freshman sensation on the mound, Crownover shined outside the lines
as well, earning an All-ACC Academic selection and the Tiger Baseball
Award, given to the team's best leader.
proving to be fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery in a
dazzling sophomore year (8-6, 2.90 ERA in 17 appearances), Crownover
was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 First-Year
Player Draft. With a chance to join some of his fellow 2011 PG
All-Americans in the pros, Crownover instead returned to Clemson for
his junior year.
was a great honor to get drafted,” he said. “But I knew I needed
to come back and work on my breaking ball a bit because it was
lacking. And it took me until this year to get it back.”
36 months removed from surgery, Crownover has been absolutely
dominant as a junior. Working his four-pitch mix – fastball,
changeup, curveball, slider – Crownover is 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA
through five starts.
defers some of the credit to his catcher and fellow former PG
All-American Chris Okey, who played in PG's most prestigious event in
a great leader with a great personality,” Crownover said of Okey.
“He does a great job calling pitches and managing the game. I can't
say enough about him. He's one of the best in the ACC, that's for
batterymates were at their best last weekend vs. Notre Dame, holding
the Irish to three hits in eight innings. Although Crownover's left
arm may be on fire, the early-season weather in ACC territory has
been ice cold. His start against Notre Dame was his first this season
in which the temperature was above freezing.
was nice to finally get a warm day,” Crownover said jokingly. “My
arm felt pretty good and I had good, but not great control. I threw
the ball well fastball location wise and mixed it up, throwing my
curve and changeup well and my slider to lefties.”
three former PG All-American's contributed to Clemson's 6-1 over the
Irish in game one of last Saturday's doubleheader. Okey went 1-for-4
and Schmidt pitched a spotless ninth inning to secure Crownover's
fourth straight win.
much a student of the game, Crownover finally feels comfortable on
the mound, which spells bad news for opposing ACC lineups.
one of those guys who can throw whatever I need to whenever I need
to,” he said. “It's not like I have to throw a certain pitch to
get somebody out. It depends on what the batter is doing up there. I
just go off of their last swing to determine what my next pitch is
going to be.”
next pitch might be to the pros, with June's draft upcoming. But
before that, Crownover is focused on two things: pitching Friday
nights for Clemson and excelling in the classroom.
now, with all the time I've spent here with Coach Leggett, I think
it'd be disrespectful not to only focus on the task at hand which is
pitching Friday nights with my teammates,” he said. “I only have
so many starts left, so I just want to focus on pitching the best I
sports communication major, Crownover teamed up with one of his
professors, Dr. Jimmy Sanderson, to present at last year's SABR
(Society for American Baseball Research) convention in Houston. Their
presentation, “Building From Within or Acquiring From Without: An
Analysis on Roster Construction for Postseason MLB Teams From
2009-13” won the USA Today Sports Award for best poster.
study found that teams with homegrown players at left field, catcher
and relief pitcher have higher WAR values, making them more valuable
than acquiring those players via free agency.
project for this year's SABR convention will focus on draft trends
over the last 10 years in the top five rounds.
looking at which teams are more likely to take high school players or
college players, or a righthanded pitcher over a lefthanded pitcher,”
Crownover said. “You can't quantify it exactly, but you can see the
trends over the last five or 10 years.”
hopes to pitch in the Majors one day, but he understands that –
even if he does make it – his career won't last forever. When he's
done playing, Crownover wants to work his way up the ladder in a
Major League front office and eventually become General Manager.
people that are trying to get these jobs are coming from MIT or have
the opportunity to do summer internships,” he said. “Playing
baseball, there's no time for me to do that.”
better prepare himself for his “dream job,” Crownover's research
with Dr. Sanderson gives him a foundation to work from when he
playing days are over.
would like to know certain things when it comes to sabermetrics,”
he said. “I'd be lying if I said I knew how to quantify WAR or
slugging plus on-base percentage. I just want to go into a job
interview one day and say that I played baseball for a long time and
I know where scouts and people in baseball are coming from, but I
also understand some things behind the analytics. I'd like to help
connect the dots and be the middle man.”
he doesn't pay much attention to his own stats, Crownover judges
himself by three very important measures: first pitch strikes,
retiring the leadoff man, and pitching well in the first inning. If
he can succeed in those three areas, he says, “I'm going to be