Versatile Crabbe could crack roster
Utilityman turning in super Spring Training with Padres
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Callix Crabbe is in his first big league Spring Training camp, but whether you look at his presence on the field or his poise off it, he's got "big league" written all over him.
Crabbe was a Rule 5 Draft pick for the Padres last December, plucked from the Brewers' system, where he spent his six-year professional career. He could be a valuable asset to the Padres, with the ability to play multiple positions in both the infield and the outfield, having played in 11 games at shortstop, five in the outfield, two at third base, and one each at second, first and DH this spring.
That versatility is probably part of the reason he's getting plenty of playing time in Spring Training, and the consistent playing time has resulted in tremendous numbers. He's has a .405 average (17-for-42) through Tuesday's games, with a homer and seven RBIs.
"I feel like I'm a skilled player," Crabbe said before Tuesday's game with the White Sox. "I'm a guy that if you give me a little bit of time, I'm going to get it done. That's what I like to think in my head."
A native of the Virgin Islands who moved to Atlanta as a teenager, Crabbe was drafted as a high school shortstop by the Braves, though he turned them down to continue developing at Manatee Junior College in Florida. Standing at 5-foot-7, he was advised to move to second, and in college he switched from second to third.
By the time he got to instructional league with the Brewers, Crabbe was beginning to see the value in versatility, and he lobbied his manager, Eddie Sedar, now the Brewers first-base coach, to let him switch positions during games, often playing as many as four positions a contest.
"I had a conversation with him after my first year about possibly being that utility guy," Crabbe recalled. "I don't want to use the word 'super,' but I feel like I can play every position adequately. I feel like I have the skill set to be able to slow the game down and do it."
It's completely in character that Crabbe is reluctant to think of himself as a super utility player. While some big leaguers resist the label, because they would prefer to see themselves as something more, Crabbe's hesitation is a result of humility.
"I'm a humble person," Crabbe acknowledged. "I don't want to make myself seem like I'm this super guy. But if someone wants to call me that, I'm going to try to live up to it. I can play every position on the field, and I can do it adequately. If they need me to catch I can catch too."
So far, Crabbe is more than living up to the expectations the Padres had when they drafted him last December from the Brewers.
"He's having a great spring," said manager Bud Black Tuesday. "He's a guy that we identified in the winter to help our club, and he's not making us think any different. All our scouting reports on him have been right on. The way he's played this spring, and the way our scouts saw him last year, he possibly could be deserving of a shot. He's playing very well. He's getting his hits, he's showing his versatility, which is a plus. It's going to be a tough decision at the end when we have to get down our 25-man roster."
Rule 5 players are in a unique position, needing to make the big league roster with their new club or get offered back to their old club. The precarious situation can add an element of pressure for players trying to crack the Major League roster, but Crabbe doesn't feel a bit of it.
"I feel like I have nothing to lose," Crabbe said. "I'm relaxed, and I'm enjoying the opportunity. I felt like I was going to get to the big leagues at some point in time. Not to sound cocky or anything, but I think as a player you need to have that confidence and believe in yourself."
Much of his newfound confidence comes from a close relationship with Cecil Fielder, who he met when he was playing rookie ball with Prince Fielder. Crabbe got reacquainted with him a couple years ago when the elder Fielder began working at a facility in Atlanta where Crabbe trained in the offseason.
"It was funny, I walked in one day to the cages, and it was like the coolest thing ever," Crabbe recalled. "He was like 'Crabbe! What's going on?' I talked to him about hitting, and he said, 'You know what? I'm going to help you out. You're a Major League Baseball player. You have the skill set to be able to repeat success.' We started working over the past two offseasons. I talk to him every other day, to be honest with you."
Fielder, along with Triple-A Nashville manager Frank Kremblas, helped Crabbe make the critical mental adjustments that have led to his success this spring.
"I would go up to the plate, and I would give pitchers credit, like 'What is he going to do to me?'" Crabbe explained. "Frank talked about concentrating on your approach instead. Don't get into his approach. Get a good pitch to hit, and when you get a good pitch to hit, you can put the ball in play."
Crabbe sees his opportunity with the Brewers coming at him, and like a fastball hanging over the meat of the plate, he's ready to put a good swing on his chance of breaking into the big leagues.
"I'm going to enjoy every second of it and show people that I'm capable," Crabbe said of his first big league camp. "I feel like I'm a Major League baseball player, and I'm getting the opportunity to show it right now."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.