June 10, 2020 | 9:13pm | Updated June 10, 2020 | 11:33pm
Pete Crow-Armstrong’s Houdini-like qualities endeared him to the Mets as much as any of the traditional tools.
The 18-year-old center fielder can run, throw and projects as a top-of-the-order hitter, but also possesses an “it” factor that attracted him to the team’s talent evaluators.
“All spring I called him the left-handed magician in center field,” Mets vice president of international and amateur scouting Tommy Tanous said Wednesday after the team selected Crow-Armstrong with the 19th-overall pick in the first round of the draft. “He was one of the kids you saw last summer, one of the rare kids that you would watch batting practice and watch him play defense — going back on balls he had such a knack for the ball.
“He would fool around in center field, catching balls between his legs and kind of showing off. When I see a defensive player, whether it’s a shortstop, a catcher or a center fielder who likes to show their tools and likes to show off in pregame, while he is getting his work done, I know you have a pretty advanced defensive player.”
Crow-Armstrong, from Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, has a commitment to Vanderbilt, but his decision shouldn’t be all that difficult, with the Mets holding a bonus slot of $3.36 million for his pick. Crow-Armstrong became the third straight high school position player drafted in the first round by the Mets, behind Jarred Kelenic (2018) and Brett Baty (2019).
After trading Kelenic to the Mariners in the deal that netted Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano before last season, the Mets were thin on outfield prospects. According to Baseball America, Crow-Armstrong was the seventh-best outfielder in this year’s draft.
Crow-Armstrong said he will bring more than a glove and bat to the Mets.
“I love the display, kind of the intangibles, as well as what I can bring physically,” he said. “I feel like as a baseball player I want to get the fans engaged and excited, so I definitely bring a lot of energy. I am a big talker, I love to communicate. That is obviously an important thing, but also being vocal on the field is all around a good thing to do, so energy excitement. I want to interact with the fans, I want to be more than just a baseball player. I want to make an impact.”
A left-handed bat, Crow-Armstrong isn’t known for his power, but the Mets can envision that aspect of his game developing.
“It’s been increasing power since he’s been 15 years old and he’s getting stronger,” Tanous said. “His path to the ball has been great, his plate awareness is tremendous and disciplined at the plate. He has all the makings of the hitters we’ve drafted in the past. The same similarities to them, but on top of that he’s a little bit faster than the average player. He’s going to be able to leg out hits but at the same time drive the ball into the gap, so he has a lot of weapons on his side.”
Both of Crow-Armstrong’s parents are actors. Most notably, his mother, Ashley, played Jenny Heywood, the mom in the 1994 movie “Little Big League.”
“I started hearing about the whole Jenny Heywood thing from other people beside my family when I was around 12,” Crow-Armstrong said. “I think it’s cool that people thought it was a neat little fact and I love the movie and I think I would love it if my mom wasn’t in it, but she was obviously also great in it.”
Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito and Max Fried are among the major leaguers produced by Crow-Armstrong’s high school. Crow-Armstrong said his favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr., although he hardly saw much of the Hall of Fame center fielder in action. Andrew McCutchen, Juan Soto, Javy Baez and Ronald Acuna Jr. were also mentioned as favorites.
“They look like they are having a good time and the things they are doing on the field are obviously something to shoot for,” Crow-Armstrong said.
In an abbreviated draft, the Mets have five picks remaining, including a compensatory selection for Zack Wheeler’s departure through free agency after last season. Pitching remains a need, following trades by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen that sent prospects Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson elsewhere over the last 1 ½ years.