Why Detroit Tigers prospect Josh Crouch is ‘gonna make some waves’ as a catcher

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The practice was done and Josh Crouch was walking toward the Detroit Tigers facility.

“I saw you hit today,” I said. “You showed some pop.”

Crouch, a catcher, broke into a smile.

“Thank you,” he said politely. “I feel blessed to be here.”

Crouch was the Tigers’ 11th-round pick in 2021. The Tigers asked him to concentrate on getting stronger during the offseason. and he put on 25 pounds of muscle.

“I’m seeing the results,” he said.

The ball was jumping off his bat Friday morning during the Tigers’ minicamp.

“It’s easier power,” he said. “I don’t have to exert as much effort as I used to, so I just feel a lot better.”

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If there is one thing to know about Crouch, it is the words he has inscribed on his catcher’s mitt: “Never satisfied.”

Maybe that says everything about this 23-year-old from Sebring, Florida.

“There is no question he’s going to be a big leaguer,” said Josh Montero, who coached Crouch while he played for the Sanford River Rats in the Florida Summer Collegiate League. “This kid has a work ethic, a drive for perfection like I’ve never seen before; and I’ve worked with a lot of big leaguers.”

That sounds like the empty talk of a former coach, just another blast of spring training hyperbole that will soon evaporate in the Florida sunshine, until you look at some of the players Montero has coached. Crouch played on the River Rats with Dylan Crews, who is now an All American at LSU, projected as the top college prospect and the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 by D1Baseball.com.

So was Crews the MVP of that team? Nope. It was Crouch.

“Josh was the MVP of my team for the last three years, including the year we won the championship,” Montero said. “We had the best team in the country with kids like Dylan Crews, and Josh was our MVP every year. He’s the guy that that was a difference-maker for our team.”

Montero said he has coached about 40 professionals.

“Josh is an incredible human being,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone as hungry as he is. Look, I’ve worked very hard in my life to provide for my family; and I would bet it all that Josh Crouch is going to be an impact player at the big-league level.”

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Late to the position

Now, here is the crazy part of Crouch’s story: How he ended up playing catcher.

Coming out of high school, Crouch was a third baseman committed to play at Florida International. He went to a Los Angeles Dodgers tryout, and the scout had an idea.

“The Dodgers scout was like, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about catching?’” Couch said.

“I was like, ‘Never thought about that,’ ” Crouch said. “And he was like, ‘Try it.’”

The scout had some gear, and Crouch tried it on.

“I ended up having some really good pop times,” Crouch said. “And the scout said, ‘You should 100% be a catcher.’”

In that moment, a catcher was born.

He decided to go to a junior college to learn the position.

Crouch played for two years at State College of Florida, learning to catch from Eddy Rodriguez, who is now the catching coach for the Marlins.

“He kind of taught me the receiving side of things, how to have good hands,” Crouch said. “I’ve exerted an extreme amount of time into the catching side of it because I knew from the get-go that I hadn’t been catching my whole life and and had to catch up.”

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Mirror magic

Crouch then transferred to Central Florida, where he hit .311 with 15 home runs in 59 games in 2021.

“He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around,” said Ted Tom, Central Florida’s hitting coach. “He’ll sit in front of the mirror and mimic movements that he needs to do defensively, especially since he was behind developmentally. If there’s a kid that’s gonna make it, he’s gonna. He’s very, very driven. He and I are really close. I’m obviously biased, but I think from a coaching standpoint, I think he’s gonna make some waves in the organization.”

More than anything, Crouch is a student of the game — the new analytical game.

“I love to read books on the game,” he said. “And I love the analytical side of things and where the game is shifting, so the fact that those guys that came from the Dodgers are mirroring that side of the baseball, I love that.”

Obviously, it’s easy for former coaches to rave about a player.

And all that matters is production.

But there is a consensus of Crouch’s former coaches — about his drive, work ethic and talent.

“His baseball IQ is off the charts,” Montero said. “He’s extremely confident. I’m telling you right now, I know he was drafted in the 11th round, but there’s not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that he’s going to be a big leaguer.”

Is it gonna happen? In truth, nobody has any freakin’ idea.

But the Tigers would take that out of an 11th-round pick.

Heck yes, they would.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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