How did I come to be writing at length about Triple-A outfielder Narciso Crook? Well, I guess it was two things coming together at once: (1) with Clint Frazier DFA’d on Friday, the outfielder situation at Triple-A Iowa was on my brain (how crowded is it, who would get squeezed out of playing time if Frazier started there every day, who is a long-term piece that makes it all the harder for Frazier to get a shot, etc.); and (2) I kept seeing Crook highlights coming across my feed.
So, yesterday, I started looking at the 26-year-old outfielder, and holy crap. I have been COMPLETELY sleeping.
Through May 7, Crook was hitting just .104/.259/.167/30 wRC+ with a 39.7% strikeout rate at Triple-A Iowa. I didn’t check in often back then, but I did look from time to time. Crook was a former legitimate Reds prospect who was something of a preferred minor league signing for the Cubs very early in the offseason, and it seemed like the Cubs were giving him decent runway at Iowa. So I gathered that, at a minimum, they thought he might become one of those reclamation late-bloomer types. But, although that was enough to keep me checking early on, once the numbers were so godawful through a month of the season, he fell off my radar.
Well. After May 7, Crook got a four-day break. Since then, he’s hit an absolutely ridiculous .361/.426/.803/211 wRC+. Yup. He’s had a 211 wRC+ for OVER a month. The strikeout rate came way back down (26.5%), and he’s clearly just obliterating the ball. When a guy hits to THAT extreme for over a month, we have to discuss him.
Back when Crook signed, we discussed how it came to be that he was a minor league free agent at all. The super short version is that he suffered multiple season-ending injuries early in his prospect days, which put him behind the developmental radar, but then the pandemic came after he hit a little in 2018 and 2019, and his good-but-not-overwhelming 2021 season at Double-A/Triple-A was not quite enough for the Reds to put him on their 40-man roster. I imagine it was one of those tough calls, which also explains why the Cubs signed him almost immediately in free agency.
So is he breaking out now? Have the Cubs unlocked him over this past month? Oh, hard to say, because while you’re talking about over a month of performance, you’re also still talking about only 68 plate appearances. That’s simply not enough of a sample to really say for sure something has changed.
Crook has always been this kind of great-contact-quality-but-with-swing-and-miss types, but he just seems even more extreme now that he’s in the Cubs organization.
The power is obvious:
Although we almost exclusively talk about a guy’s production and potential on the field, I think you can’t mention Crook without also talking about what a fantastic person EVERYONE says he is. I swear, every time he comes up or everywhere I read about him or every tweet a see from a fan who’s interacted with him talks about what a great guy he is.
With Crook due to be a minor league free agent again this offseason if he’s not added to the 40-man roster, the Cubs are going to be evaluating him closely the rest of the way. Heck, I wonder if there’s a chance we see him up in the second half for a look, depending on what happens with the rest of the roster.
In any case, I’d been sleeping on him the last month, but I’ll be following his production much more closely over the next month.