LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri doesn’t underscore the impact Dylan Crews can have on his program.
He’s also cognizant of the process Crews must follow from being a highly touted major league prospect to talented freshman at one of the nation’s premier baseball programs.
“I fear that a kid like that’s so highly touted people expect them to be perfect,” Mainieri said. “The nature of the game is that you can’t be perfect. In the history of the game nobody’s been perfect, and Dylan Crews is not going to be perfect.”
Mainieri cited several examples in his team’s recent scrimmage where the 18-year-old Crews struck out with a runner on third and two out. He also had a “bad” strikeout, but his performance that day also included a lead-off double and a walk.
“That’s just the way baseball is,” Mainieri said.
The powerfully-built Crews, a 6-foot, 203-pound right-handed hitter, has certainly enjoyed his share of moments that have captivated Mainieri and the coaching staff. He’s projected as the Tigers starter in right field when they open the season Friday at Alex Box Stadium against Air Force.
There have been majestic home runs from Crews that have turned heads as well as his lethal right arm in the outfield. Both have validated the big-time potential major league scouts believed they saw when they projected him to be a first-round draft choice before the start of his senior year at Lake Mary High in Longwood, Fla.
It’s not often, though, players as talented as Crews, who committed to LSU as a sophomore in high school, actually make it to college and develop into an even more polished product that MLB teams covet.
Crews is one such player, eschewing the gawdy first-round projections, and in the weeks leading up to the coronavirus-shortened 2020 MLB draft removed his name from draft consideration and became the highest-ranked player in the nation to attend college.
“It was always a dream of mine to come to LSU,” Crews said. “If I thought about going to the draft, I always thought about this opportunity that I’d be giving up to come here. There’s no better place to develop than LSU. I just felt like my senior year I wasn’t the most developed I could be. Coming here I want to be the best player I can be when I enter the draft in 2023.”
Given some of the data coming out of fall practice and early-season workouts, it’s easy to see why Crews would be somewhere in the heart of the Tigers’ lineup as a primary run producer with a penchant for extra-base hits.
“There’s no question that when they do sign it changes the dynamic of your team,” Mainieri said of a player with Crews’ ability who could have bypassed college for the draft. “Our three starting pitchers (Jaden Hill, Landon Marceaux, A.J. Labas) all could have signed out of high school had they chosen to. How different would our team be if we didn’t have those three guys. Anytime you hold onto a player that has exceptional talent like our three starting pitchers, like Dylan Crews, it’s just going to make your team that much better.”
Three months after having his senior year cut short after eight games amid the coronavirus pandemic, Crews participated in the Florida Collegiate Summer League about 30 minutes from his hometown as a member of the Sanford River Rats, taking advantage of the ability to play in 21 games and see live pitching.
Crews also worked out and added 15 pounds to his frame, a clear sign that he understood what awaited him at LSU.
“The game stays the same in between the lines,” said Crews, the nation’s fifth-ranked center fielder, No. 2 prospect in Florida and Under Armour All-American in 2019. “You can say that I had a lot of hype coming in, but at the end of the day I’ve still got a job to do when I get here, I’ve still got a role to play. I’m going to give it all I can to be the best player that I can be. I’m real excited to be here with the guys and we’re going to do what we can to win a national championship.”
Although he didn’t hit above .300 during fall workouts, Crews tied for fourth on the team in hits (14), was second in slugging (.500) and tied for second in doubles (5). In the final game of the team’s Purple vs. Gold three-game series, he went 1-3 with a double.
Crews has been a regular in preseason workouts amongst players with eye-popping exit speeds – or the hardest hit balls – whether in scrimmage action or in at bats against live pitching.
Over a three-day span in January, Crews posted team-high exit speeds of 111.1 and 110.5 along with team-best marks of 105.5 and 103.9 earlier in the month along with a top mark of 105.5 in February.
Crews also had hits in three straight scrimmages that included a pair of doubles, a pair of walks and a stolen base as he moved closer to the start of his collegiate career.
“There’s always been ups and downs,” Crews said. “Right now, I’m learning my ups and downs here. If I go into a drought here where in the future in pro ball, I’ll know how I handled that in that situation. When that time comes, I’ll be prepared for it.”