For Clayton Kershaw, the task would have been daunting. Imagine being a 22-year old pitcher who has pitched only one game in Double-A. Imagine that nearly impossible task falling onto the shoulders of an unheralded International Free Agent who only started transitioning to becoming a starting pitcher professionally in July of 2015, and who still split time between the rotation and the bullpen in 2016.
Couple that with carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire country as you take the mound in what may prove to be an elimination game against the defending WBC Champion Dominican Republic.
Despite having the weight of the world, if not his own country on his shoulders, we saw a cool and composed Nabil Crismatt on the mound for a Colombian team that nearly pulled off the upset. In three innings, Crismatt allowed only two earned runs against a verifiable offensive juggernaut.
Throughout his entire professional career, Crismatt’s game has been about precision. It starts with his clean and easily repeatable mechanics. Crismatt has about as smooth a delivery as you could possibly want from your starting pitcher. The next element is his ability to locate his pitches and throw for strikes.
Over the past two seasons, Crismatt has exhibited just an unfathomable level of control. In 127.2 innings over the last two seasons, Crismatt has only walked 19 batters. Combined between 2015-2016, he has a terrific 7.21 K/BB ratio. This is how you go from an little known IFA to rising up to being MMN‘s 26th best prospect in the Mets farm system.
Crismatt needs the precision control he has because he’s not your typical overpowering Mets pitching prospect. Typically, Crismatt’s fastball sits somewhere between 88-92 MPH. However, he gets the most out of that pitch because he pairs it with an excellent change-up.
With his ability to locate, and with the use of the change-up, Crismatt is able to keep batters off balance. Crismatt has also shown he’s willing, ready and able to throw the change-up in any count and in any situation. It was this combination that saw Crismatt go 1-4 with a 2.47 ERA, a 0.883 WHIP, and a 10.1 K/9 in his seven starts and six relief appearances for Brooklyn Cyclones, Columbia Fireflies and the Binghamton Mets in 2016.
Even with a fastball/change-up combination that has allowed him to dominate in the minor leagues, and could one day be good enough to seem him pitch out of the bullpen in the majors, Crismatt isn’t satisfied. He’s looking every which way to become a better starting pitcher.
For example, just this past season, Crismatt began working on the quick pitch. It’s something we have seen both Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia use quite effectively. However, it was not something anyone in the Mets organization taught to Crismatt. Rather, he learned in watching baseball in the hopes of learning new ways to become a better pitcher.
According to Crismatt, “I picked up the quick pitch after seeing videos of Johnny Cueto. I try to learn something new every game, and the way he is able to move, mechanically, is really great. I’m not a guy who throws 95, so trying something different is going to help me. Baseball is about changing speeds and looks; if you do the same thing, the hitter can be waiting on you and timing you.” (milb.com).
In addition to the quick pitch, Crismatt is looking for that third pitch that will allow him to stay in the starting rotation, which he prefers. Initially, Crismatt tried throwing a curveball, but he has yet to master it. It’s more slurvy than you would want, and it is not a pitch that will play in the upper levels of the minor leagues, let alone the major leagues. Instead, now, he is looking to develop a slider.
In the World Baseball Classic, he showed a willingness to use it early in the game against the Dominican Republic. Like the slider currently taught in the Mets organization, it was thrown faster than most other sliders, and it came across more like a cutter than an actual slider. As the game progressed and as the situations became more intense, Crismatt abandoned the slider and focused almost exclusively on his fastball and his change-up.
Over the next year of so, Crismatt should gain more confidence in the slider and be willing to throw it in those pressure filled situations.
Certainly, a pitcher like him who looks under each and every stone in an attempt to become a better pitcher will put the time and effort in to make the slider a plus pitch for him. And when that happens, watch out. Crismatt could move on from being a sleeper prospect in the Mets organization to the next starting pitcher the Mets have produced.