December 20, 2017 - Frontier League (FL) - Washington Wild Things
WASHINGTON, Pa. - Today the Wild Things announced the latest transaction of the 2017-18 offseason with the signing of the United Shore League's 2016 Co-Most Valuable Player, outfielder/utility man Austin Crutcher. Crutcher last played for the Chicago White Sox organization in 2017.
Following the 2016 baseball season, Baseball America named Crutcher to its rankings of independent prospects. In 2016, Crutcher had one of the most impressive seasons around the independent-ball scene, in his first year with Utica Unicorns of the USPBL.
During the Co-MVP season, the Bellarmine (Ky.) University grad posted a .301/.385/.624 slash line with 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases. Crutcher drove in 51 runs and scored 42 runs in 48 games with Utica.
His efforts didn't go unrecognized by affiliated-ball scouts, as he was signed to a pro contract by the Chicago White Sox organization, where he played 43 games with the Arizona League White Sox (rookie-ball affiliate). He hit .244 with a .769 OPS in 145 plate appearances. Crutcher belted two home runs and drove in 19, stole five bases and walked 21 times.
For the Wild Things, the move was a no-brainer.
"We couldn\'t resist adding another experienced rookie to our roster. The quality of your rookies separates you from a fringe team to a playoff team. Not too often do you get to add a Top 10 prospect as a free agent," said general manager Steven Zavacky. "Initially, we were hesitant to pursue Austin because he was a listed outfielder and we are slated to return the best outfield group in the Frontier League. As we talked to Austin he actually expressed more interest in a utility role and redeveloping his skills as an infielder. His speed/power combination just deepens our lineup of weapons and his defensive versatility provides us more options."
Crutcher went undrafted out of Division II Bellarmine University, where he played four seasons for the Knights. In 2015 as a senior, he was named honorable mention All-America by the NCBWA and was selected as the Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year. Crutcher was a two-time All-Midwest Region selection on was awarded all-conference laurels three times.
The Lexington, Kentucky, native hit 26 home runs and drove in 107 runs in four seasons with Bellarmine. He stole more than 65 bases in the four years combined as well. From 2013-2015, he slugged 1.022.
Crutcher said both experiences in pro baseball came with lessons, as both were great experiences.
"I learned a lot from each league but most importantly I learned what works best for me and what doesn't," said Crutcher. "The main difference at the professional level and what I saw in college was the consistent amount of velocity."
He said he is excited to join a team that has had recent success, and hopes to contribute to the continuation of that.
"I'm really excited. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off and bring home a championship," said Crutcher.
Crutcher said some of his goals involve leading the Frontier League in several statistical categories.