The dynamic left-handed hitter, first baseman, and southpaw reliever is quite a coup for Tony Vitello’s club. That said, with the upcoming MLB Draft, it didn’t seem like as big of a splash as it could have been because Crawford could decide to never actually play for the Vols and go straight from the Huskies to the professional ranks.
During his two seasons with the Huskies from 2020-21, Crawford starred on the mound and at the plate. He batted .309/.362/.546 (.908 OPS) with 14 home runs and 78 RBI in 262 at-bats (64 games). As a sophomore in 2021, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder had 13 home runs and 62 RBI while hitting .295/.349/.543 (.892 OPS) after being named a Freshman All-American in his first season with the Huskies.
On the mound, Crawford is a left-hander with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a career 2.25 ERA and 17 strikeouts in seven relief appearances (8.0 innings). Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October. Prior to needing that surgery, Crawford was projected by many to be a top-10 pick and a lock to go in the first round.
Although it’s unclear how Crawford will perform as a pitcher following Tommy John surgery, many MLB teams believe that his biggest impact at the highest level will be on the mound, not as a batter. Then again, he could do both (and perform well while doing so).
If Crawford does skip the MLB and enroll at Tennessee for his fourth collegiate season, the Vols will likely use him both at first base and as a reliever. Although Tennessee returns their starting rotation, they will have to rebuild the majority of their bullpen. The former UConn star would certainly help with that.
For those unfamiliar: MLB draft picks do not have to sign with the team that drafted them and can decide to return to college if they want to. With his commitment to the Vols, Crawford holds a bit of leverage when it comes to whichever team drafts him this weekend. He could sign with said team if the MLB club gives him a lucrative deal or decide to make his way to Knoxville and enroll at Tennessee, where he can bet on himself, prove that he’s the player he was pre-TJ surgery, and play for one of the best college baseball teams while still having three years of eligibility remaining.
Crawford’s decision to transfer to Tennessee is quite significant. That said, the Vols will have to wait a little while to see if the two-way star will ever actually don the orange and white. Projected to be picked in either the first or second round of this weekend’s MLB Draft, Crawford will either sign with the team that drafts him or decide to return to college for his fourth collegiate season and suit up for the Volunteers.
Hopefully, for Tennessee’s sake, Crawford decides to play at least one season in Knoxville. He would be quite an addition to the Vols. Only time will tell.