Electric Crouse ready to deal

Photo: Steve Fiorindo

Blake Dowson
Published: Monday, August 8, 2016

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Generally speaking, if a 17-year-old righthanded pitcher can light up the radar gun as high as 97 miles per hour and work consistently between 94-95, he will be a top end prospect.

When you couple that elite fastball with a hammer curveball that makes even the best hitters in Southern California look silly, that pitcher turns into one of the top prospects in the country. That guy is Hans Crouse, a righthanded flamethrower from Dana Hills, California. Crouse is currently the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2017 class, and the No. 2 righty.

“It’s exciting to be ranked so highly in my class, but at the same time I’m still very humbled by it,” Crouse said. “But it’s about knowing that there’s always room for improvement within your game. It’s a really exciting time for me to be ranked that highly, because this class is so stacked with really good arms and really good hitters.”

The thing that separates Crouse from the other guys in his class that hit upper-90s on the gun, though, is his showmanship on the mound. His delivery is rarely repeated twice in a row. While for many big pitchers in each class that may be seen as a problem, Crouse’s switch-up in deliveries is something that he picked up from a guy that has had quite a bit of success at the big league level — Johnny Cueto.

Crouse was watching Cueto on the mound on April 10 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and liked how the 30-year-old from the Dominican Republic varied his deliveries to keep the batters off balance. During Crouse’s next start for Dana Hills, he tried using the same techniques Cueto uses on the mound. It turned out that Crouse was a natural, or maybe just a quick learner. He threw seven innings of nearly flawless baseball, throwing the first no-hitter of his career while striking out 13 and only walking one hitter.

“That was a really cool experience,” Crouse said. “When I was in the bullpen, I didn’t have my best stuff. I thought in my head that it might be a tough game.”

Throwing a no-hitter the first time he ever tried using the Cueto methods on the mound was reason enough to keep employing them, and that’s exactly what he has done. However, it does look a bit odd when he is pumping 97 mile per hour fastballs — it doesn’t seem like much deception would be needed.

Crouse will be taking his elite fastball to the University of Southern California in a couple years; a decision he said was made pretty early in his high school career.

The 6-foot-4 righty headlines the Trojan’s No. 6 nationally ranked 2017 recruiting class, but there is a deep class of great young players heading to USC with him. There are five other top-100 recruits along with Crouse, including Kyle Hurt (No. 12), Nick Allen (No. 20), Je’Von Carrier-Ward (No. 33), Ben Ramirez (No. 35), and Nicholas Pratto (No. 84). Hurt, Allen, Carrier-Ward, and Ramirez will all be joining Crouse in San Diego for the PG All-American Classic as well.

Crouse’s brother, Marrick, plays at USC as well, a big bonus for Hans as he went through the recruiting process.

“It’s pretty awesome having him there,” the younger Crouse said. “Knowing that you’re going to the same school and pitching alongside him is cool. I’ve always wanted to play with him at the next level, and we’ll get to now.”

During his junior season at Dana Hills, Crouse earned a 1.15 ERA over 73 innings on the mound, striking out 96 in that time. He had a WHIP of 0.863, and batters hit just .163 off of him.

The fact that Crouse has some of the most electric stuff in the class, added with the fact that he is from California, means he will be one of the headliners at the 14th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park in San Diego on Aug. 14. He’s as excited to play in front of the California crowd as they are to see him toe the rubber in Petco.

“When I got the call, I was just really excited to go down to San Diego,” Crouse said. “I’m really excited to play with the best guys in the nation and compete against each other, yet it will also be awesome to go and have fun with the outside stuff we do away from the game.”

Crouse said it was about a year ago when he started to realize all of these opportunities that baseball has provided him were possible. He’s been able to travel the country showing off his arm, and getting to pitch at the PG All-American Classic may just be the best opportunity of all.

“It was about a year ago when I had the realistic expectation that I want to make the Perfect Game All-American game. It was right around when the Area Code games happened last year,” he said. “I had a pretty good showing there, and that’s when I started having a lot of stuff coming my way.”

Now, after what he called a disappointing trip to a recent showcase, Crouse is looking to again wow scouts in San Diego on Aug. 14. He wants to take his stuff to another level and make his case for being named the top prospect in the 2017 class.

“When I pitch, velocity-wise I want to touch 98 and really run it up there,” he said. “I want to go to the Perfect Game All-American and run it up to 98 or 99. If I could do that, and mix in some good curveballs and maybe strike a couple guys out, that would be good.

”It means a lot to me [to be selected for the Classic.] It really means that all of my hard work is starting to show and pay off. It’s another step forward in the right direction for my career.”

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