Thursday, March 9, 2023

Fan-favorite Narciso Crook breaks out with first two spring homers

Narciso Crook is an easy guy to root for. He has a track record of making friends and fans wherever he plays because he makes time for the kids in the crowd, signing autographs in exchange for a promise that they'll pay forward an act of kindness.

He's also fun to cheer for because he's got such a well-rounded basket of tools. He showed off the power side of his game today against the Yankees, bashing two home runs in an 11-7 Red Sox victory.

Here's the Crook entry from Major League Debuts.

Narciso Crook, OF, Cubs

B-T: R-R HT: 6-3 WT: 220 Born: July 12, 1995, Nagua, Dominican Republic

Debut Age: 26

Debut: June 30. Crook had a debut to savor against his former club, coming on as a pinch hitter for Rafael Ortega with runners at the corners in the bottom of the fifth. He drilled the first pitch he saw to short for an inning-ending double play. Not the result he wanted, but the 100-mph exit velocity was duly noted. He hit the ball hard again his next time up, ripping a line drive deep down the left-field line for a double to score Christopher Morel. He wasn’t done yet. With the Cubs up 10-4, Cincinnati shifted Max Schrock from right field to the mound for the eighth inning. Crook got in on the resultant hit parade, singling to center. He would score later on a double by Nelson Velazquez. He finished the night 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI as the Cubs cruised 15-7.

Background: Born in the Dominican Republic, Crook moved to Trenton, N.J., to join his mother when he was 11. As he settled in, he practiced his English by listening to Eminem, 50 Cent, and Lil Wayne. Crook’s mom married former NFL tight end Al Darby, who encouraged him to take up a sport in the hopes that it would keep him out of trouble. He chose baseball and quickly became a success locally. Crook spent one year at Gloucester County College, where he hit .372 with 14 homers and 69 RBIs in 2013, and was the only freshman named to the NJCAA Div. III All-American first-team. Shortly after he hit four jacks in a doubleheader, the Reds selected him in the 23rd round of the draft. He made his professional debut the following summer, hitting .255/.313/.423 in 42 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Crook showed promising power but poor plate discipline in his first full season at Low-A Dayton in 2015. Sent back the next spring, his season ended in May when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder. His development was further derailed by a sports hernia in 2017 that required another surgery and more rehab. The injuries limited him to 59 games between the two seasons. But when he played he always hit the ball hard, displaying great athleticism and an infectious enthusiasm that made him a clubhouse favorite at every stop. His offseason routine includes time with Licey in the Dominican Winter League, where Crook belted three home runs in one memorable game during the 2020-21 season. He set a new career best with 14 long balls in 2021, spent mostly at Triple-A Louisville, where he had also spent the bulk of the 2019 campaign.

2022 Season: After eight seasons in the Reds organization, Crook signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent in November 2021. He got off to an icy start at Triple-A Iowa, hitting .178/.294/.329 through the end of May. But the flip switched with the calendar, and Crook absolutely raked in June, slashing .345/.444/.667 with seven homers and seven stolen bases. When Jason Heyward went on the injured list at the end of the month, the Cubs went with the hot hand. His brief trial lasted just four games, and he returned to Iowa 2-for-8, with both hits coming in his first contest. His final numbers at Iowa were the best of his career, and he proved particularly dangerous against lefthanders, slashing .277/.340/.596 in 94 at-bats against southpaws.

Outlook: Despite his lengthy resume, he’s still only 27. It’s hard to believe he won’t see more time in the big leagues. The swing-and-miss will always be there, but if he gets hot at the right time he could stick long enough to post a few crooked numbers. He signed with a minor league deal with the Red Sox in November.


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