COLUMBIA — Kyle Gibson and Aaron Crow were both on the Missouri Tigers pitching staff two seasons ago. Now, there is a distinct possibility they will be pitching against each other in the American League Central Division in the near future.
In Tuesday’s Major League Baseball first-year player draft, Crow was selected 12th overall by the Kansas City Royals. Gibson was selected by the Minnesota Twins 10 picks later, with the 22nd pick in the first round.
Both players were selected lower than predicted by Major League scouts. Three weeks ago, Gibson was considered a top-five prospect. But a stress fracture in his right forearm, discovered this past weekend, created an unsure situation that led to 19 teams passing on him. Gibson’s father, Harold, said he was pleased with the Twins selection.
“The Twins never really talked to us, we were surprised. You know the Twins are the best team in the Major Leagues right now,” Harold Gibson said in a phone interview Tuesday night from a block party that was being held in his son’s honor. “Kyle went through a lot this week and he stayed true to being a good person and a good teammate.”
In Gibson’s last outing with the Tigers, he pitched eight shutout innings in Missouri’s NCAA regional game against Monmouth. In that game, his pitch velocity was significantly slower, with his fastball only reaching the mid-80 mph range, nearly 10 mph less than his usual.
Gibson went into that start knowing he was not 100 percent, but wanted to pitch regardless, hoping he could perform for his team in an elimination game.
“I was sore and I definitely didn’t tell people about my arm. I don’t blame the coaches or anyone for throwing me cause I want the ball every time,” Gibson said. “I always pride myself on bring a team guy. The one thing I wanted to do was go out there and pitch and prove the draft wasn’t first thing on my mind.”
Missouri pitching coach Tony Vitello thinks Gibson’s performance versus Monmouth shows Gibson is an exceptional teammate.
“People need to know Gibson put millions of dollars on the line to pitch for his teammates,” Vitello said.
Vitello also said he has no concerns about the injury hampering Gibson’s pitching ability down the road.
Former Missouri Tiger Aaron Crow also fell in the draft. After Crow was selected by the Washington Nationals with the ninth pick in the 2008 draft, Crow and his agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, were unable to come to an agreement with the Nationals on a contract. After the period to sign had passed, Crow pitched in the independent American Association, with the Fort Worth Cats.
Before this year’s draft, Crow expressed the desire to have a similar contract to the one he and his agents were asking for last season. This question of ‘signability’ led to Crow being selected later than was expected by many draft experts. The Royals pounced on the surprising opportunity to draft Crow, who won the Roger Clemens Award for best collegiate pitcher in 2008.
Crow, a native of Topeka, Kan., said he is excited to pitch for the team he has been rooting for since his childhood, and expressed a feeling of vindication for his choice to reenter the draft.
“I’m going to be in a great situation with the Royals, I’m hoping to sign sooner, rather than later, and get to the majors as soon as possible,” Crow said.
As of Tuesday night, Crow had not been in contact with the Royals, but he expressed desire to pitch this season.
Kyle Gibson, meanwhile, has expressed his intentions to take the rest of the season off. Gibson hopes to start with the Twins in spring training, citing a long season with Missouri and his injury as reasons to rest. Gibson expects to be fully recovered from his forearm injury by the end of July. The deadline for the Twins and Gibson to agree on a contract is Aug. 17.
Those who follow the draft say the teams that chose Crow and Gibson got good deals. Jim Callis of Baseball America said he thinks that if the draft was held a month ago, there would be no chance for the Twins to select the highly touted Gibson.
“I can imagine Kyle contending for a rotation spot in 2011,” Callis said Tuesday evening by phone.
Callis also liked the Royals pick of Crow, pointing to the 23-year-old’s game experience at Missouri and in Fort Worth as a positive factor for his development once he reaches the Royals’ minor league system.
“He’s already faced professional hitters in the American Association, and was in a great conference in the Big 12. He can move quickly through the system, and it’s very possible he can be with the Royals by the end of next season. But only if he signs soon,” Callis said.
Vitello, who coached both pitchers, said that Crow needs to start pitching immediately, to work past his notorious slow starts, and that Gibson needs to fill out his tall, lanky frame.
“Both pitchers have a good work ethic," Vitello said. "They are also super talented, otherwise they would not have gone in the first round.”
Both pitchers have the rest of the summer to come to an agreement with their respective teams. Kyle Gibson fully expects to sign a contract with the Twins.
“It’s life changing money,” Gibson said. “It’s pretty cool when you have the chance to support your parents for the rest of their lives.”
Andrew DeWitt contributed to this report