The Milwaukee Brewers selected Crowder pitcher Aaron Ashby with the 125th overall pick (fourth round) Tuesday in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Prognosticators and pundits ranked Ashby in the top 200 prospects — MLB.com had Ashby ranked at No. 112 overall — and it was no big surprise that Ashby came off the board in the fourth round.
Every MLB team scouted Ashby during the past Crowder season — during his sophomore campaign, Ashby put up some incredible numbers, well, they speak for themselves.
In 15 appearances, 13 starts, Ashby finished 11-2 overall with a 2.29 ERA and one save. Over 74 2/3 innings, Ashby recorded 156 strikeouts or he struck out nearly 19 batters per every nine innings. During a four-game stretch, Ashby pitched three no-hitters. In his last Crowder outing, a 10-1 win over Mineral Area in the Region 16 tournament, Ashby reached 17 strikeouts and he allowed one run (earned) on five hits over eight innings.
“We needed to save pitching,” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said after the game. “He (Ashby) was as dominant as he’s ever been. I didn’t even realize 17 strikeouts, but really impressive. He kept his composure. There were a couple situations early there that could have got away from him and he located on three breaking balls. Mineral Area’s a good offensive team and we knew this was going to be a tough matchup. A lot of people were wondering who we were going to throw and there was no question in my mind who we had to throw with our season on the line.”
On the MLB Draft stream, Jim Callis — senior writer for MLB Pipeline — beamed over Ashby.
“He’s on a good path because he’s the nephew of Andy Ashby,” Callis said, “who pitched at Park Hill High School in Kansas City and then at Crowder, which is exactly what Aaron Ashby’s doing. If you want to look at some stats on guys, I know they’re JUCO stats, 156 strikeouts led the nation in JUCO, 18.8 strikeouts per nine innings. 18.8?
“He’s got a big-time curveball. It’s a legitimate plus-curve that can be manipulated into a harder, shorter slider at times. Was an upper 80s guy last year, even at the beginning of this year, and all of a sudden, he was 91-94 once the weather warmed up. Struck out 17 in his final outing, hasn’t used the changeup much because in junior college you got a devastating curve like that and a good fastball you don’t need to, but very interesting guy.”
MLB Pipeline graded Ashby at 60 for his curveball, 55 for his fastball, 50 for his changeup, 45 for his control, and 45 for his overall grade.
Concerns over Ashby have been centered on his “funky delivery” that affects his strike-throwing abilities and how his stuff will stack up against more advanced hitters.
Teams have picked Ashby in back-to-back years — the Texas Rangers selected Ashby in the 25th round last year.
In the fall, Ashby committed to NCAA Division I Tennessee.
The bonus for Pick No. 125 amounts to $438,300, since we’ve been discussing numbers so much, so he will have an interesting decision to make — sign with the Brewers or go to Tennessee and try and improve his draft stock even more.
In recent seasons, several current, former or even future Crowder players have been selected.
Last year, former Crowder and former Neosho High standout Trey Turner went in the 10th round to the Washington Nationals, while Ashby was picked in the 25th by the Rangers and Kyle Wilson went to the New York Mets in the 35th.
Two years ago, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Connor Eller in the 22nd and the Baltimore Orioles picked Zach Matson in the 24th. The Seattle Mariners picked Tyler Duncan in the 30th round and Duncan recently finished his two seasons at Crowder. Duncan set a Crowder single-season record with 80 RBI during the Roughriders’ 2017 run to the JUCO World Series.
Three years ago, the Colorado Rockies and the Tampa Bay Rays selected Sam Hilliard and Ethan Clark, respectively, in the 15th. The Minnesota Twins selected Wilson in the 19th, but Wilson decided to come to Crowder. Andrew Schwaab signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Yankees.
In 2014, the Boston Red Sox selected Jalen Beeks in the 12th and the San Francisco Giants picked Mark Reyes in the 22nd.
Nearly all those players (except for Hilliard) are pitchers in the pros.