Texas used the next-to-last pick in 2017’s second round to draft Crouse, paying him $1.45 million in a $926,500 slot in convincing him to forgo an offer to join his brother on the USC pitching staff. He has since given the Rangers hope that they’ve got a front-of-the-rotation prospect to develop, something this organization has lacked in this era of contention. While the Rangers hadn’t yet introduced their “de-load” program for high school draftees in 2017, they were careful with Crouse that summer, limiting him to 20 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He allowed one earned run in those 20 frames, scattering seven hits and seven walks (.109/.216/.188 opponents’ slash line) while setting 30 hitters down on strikes. Crouse added good weight to his 6’4 frame before the short-season leagues got underway in 2018, and in a six-week stint with Short-Season A Spokane, he was nearly as overpowering against older competition as he’d been the summer before in the complex league. Facing Northwest League hitters three years older than he was, the righthander went 5-1, 2.37 in eight starts and held opponents to a hapless .179/.238/.250 slash line, fanning 47 and walking 11 in 38 innings. Only twice did he allow more than one earned run, and in one July stretch of three starts he twice logged seven innings without a base on balls, punching out 11 one time and 12 the other. Texas promoted Crouse to Low-A Hickory for five starts to finish the season. He was less dominant in that stretch (.273/.360/.348) but did log 15 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. The one abiding concern (if you can call it that) about Crouse, who misses bats with a mid-90s fastball that has touched 99, a plus-plus breaking ball, and a fading change, is that his delivery is so high-effort and noisy that some wonder whether his future is in late relief. But the Rangers believe his mechanics, while unconventional, are not problematic. While Thompson carries himself with a quiet intensity, Crouse is a far more fiery competitor, with a Scherzer/Stroman streak that he takes to the mound. He’s likely to be back in Hickory when the 2019 season begins, 20 years old and hell-bent on becoming the type of big-league pitcher the Rangers haven’t developed in his lifetime.