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MLB Draft 2020: Oakland A’s select Jeff Criswell with No. 58 overall pick

A right-handed pitcher out of Michigan

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s selected Jeff Criswell in the 2nd round of the 2020 MLB Draft on Thursday, with the No. 58 overall pick. The 21-year-old is a right-handed pitcher from University of Michigan.

Here’s a scouting report on Criswell from MLB Pipeline:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50

Criswell ranked as Michigan’s top prep prospect in 2017, but questions about his consistency and signability dropped him to the Tigers in the 35th round. He dominated as a reliever for the Wolverines as a freshman, then served as one of the best No. 3 starters in college baseball in 2019. He became a bullpen weapon again at the College World Series, getting crucial outs behind second-round picks Karl Kaufmann and Tommy Henry as Michigan came within a victory of the national title.

Criswell took over as the Wolverines’ Friday starter in 2020 and has the stuff to go in the same range as Kauffmann and Henry did. He maintained his velocity while transitioning from reliever to starter, showing the ability to work at 93-96 mph with heavy sink for several innings at a time. Both his slider and his fading changeup are solid secondary pitches that arrive in the low 80s.

While Criswell unquestionably has the repertoire and strong build [6’4, 225 pounds] to start at the pro level, he’s still learning to harness his stuff. He lapses into overthrowing at times, which causes his delivery to get out of sync and his control to waver. If he can do a better job of locating his pitches, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.

Baseball America also praises Criswell’s stuff, pegging the fastball a tick higher at 94-97 mph and giving his two secondaries average potential. However, they note that he’ll need better control in order to start in the pros, and if he doesn’t develop that then he could end up in the bullpen. Still, all sources seem to agree he has a chance to be good in whichever of those two roles he ends up, starter or reliever. To see MLB Network’s analysis of him, watch this clip (cued up to the 4:35 mark).

Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle offers this quote from an A’s scout, who sees Criswell as a starter: “Is he going to throw 100 out of the bullpen? Maybe. But he’s really valuable at 94-97 as a starter.” For his part, Criswell prefers starting but also enjoys relieving and would be happy either way, via Slusser.

Emily Waldon of The Athletic adds this to the scouting report: “Fantastic human being, solid leader and a collegiate resume to dream on. Great choice by Oakland.”

Criswell’s stats from his freshman season (‘18) as a reliever, and his sophomore and abbreviated junior seasons (‘19 and ‘20) as a starter, competing as part of the Big 10 conference, via Baseball Cube:

  • 2018: 2.23 ERA, 32⅓ ip, 32 Ks, 19 BB, 2 HR, 18 hits
  • 2019: 2.74 ERA, 95⅓ ip, 99 Ks, 45 BB, 6 HR, 80 hits
  • 2020: 4.50 ERA, 24 ip, 26 Ks, 9 BB, 1 HR, 18 hits

Here’s some video from his alma mater:

MLB Pipeline had Criswell at No. 58 on their pre-draft board, and that’s exactly where he ended up going with the A’s pick. Not every source had him that high, though:

As an extra point of interest, Criswell’s father, Brian, was drafted by the A’s in 1984, in the 17th round. Brian, a left-handed pitcher, never made it to the majors, but did reach as high as Double-A in a five-season career that he spent entirely in Oakland’s system. That family history resembles that of this year’s 1st-round pick, Tyler Soderstrom, whose own father was a Giants draft pick in 1993 and briefly played in the bigs for San Francisco.

The A’s next pick is in the 3rd round, No. 98 overall.