2021 Player Previews: Garrett Crochet

After the MLB Draft wrapped up last June, MLB Network’s Jim Callis said that Garrett Crochet might have a similar path to that of Chris Sale the majors with the White Sox. “They drafted (Sale) and they said, ‘Look, if you pitch well in the minors, you can come to contribute in a pennant race,’ and he did that,” Callis said. “Chris Sale began his career as a reliever before going to a starter. The White Sox are looking to contend this year. I don’t see why you couldn’t do that.”

Callis was half right about Crochet in 2020. There was no minor league season for him to showcase what he can do for the White Sox, but he still made his major league debut in September as the White Sox zoomed towards their first postseason berth in more than a decade. 

After being taken 13th overall by the White Sox in the 2010 MLB Draft, Chris Sale made four appearances at High-A Winston-Salem before being promoted to Triple-A. Sale racked up a whopping 15 K’s in 6.1 innings of work with Charlotte and was promoted to Chicago to join the bullpen.

Crochet on the other hand only had the opportunity to throw 3.1 innings against Wright State, striking out six of the 12 hitters he faced while walking none and allowing just two hits in his only appearance before the pandemic ended the collegiate season.

Instead of cutting his teeth in the minor leagues like Sale, Crochet went to Schaumburg to the team’s alternate site, impressing players and coaches enough there to earn a promotion. In an interview with White Sox prospect Jake Burger this winter, Burger remembered facing Crochet and his high-heat this summer.

“Garrett Crochet was gross!” Burger said with a chuckle. “I think I went one-for-five with four strikeouts and a double off of the wall.” 

Photo: Getty Images

Andrew Dalquist had similar praise for Crochet in September when he was called up to join the bullpen for the stretch run.

“The ball comes out different, for sure,” White Sox prospect Andrew Dalquist said of Crochet. “It’s hard to explain but I’ve played catch with him a few times and it’s uncomfortable to catch. The ball jumps on you really quick. Obviously, the velocity numbers are through the roof but he gets pretty good carry on it and I think he has a high spin rate. The ball jumps on you. You’ve got to be ready every time, that’s for sure.”

On September 18 when Crochet was called up, Rick Hahn tried to downplay the potential impact the No. 11 pick in the draft might have. 

“We’re not quite sure what we’re going to get,” Hahn said. “We know the stuff’s going to play long term. I hope he doesn’t feel pressured over the next 10 days to show more than he’s capable of doing, because what he’s capable of doing is more than enough to succeed at the big league level. We’re just going to see here his composure, his ability to stand out there on the mound and, with confidence, attack big league hitters. It’s not a small task. We realize that.”

Crochet passed the test with flying colors, appearing in five of the final 10 games on the schedule while allowing zero runs. Crochet and his 100-plus mph fastball stymied opposing hitters and were on display frequently. Crochet threw his fastball 85 percent of the time at an average velocity of 100-miles-per-hour and struck out opposing hitters at a 36.4 percent clip. 

Crochet looked unhittable in his brief debut stint which made me think of what rival SEC skipper Tim Corbin of Vanderbilt has to say about Crochet last June during the MLB Draft coverage.  

“Good luck hitting him,” Corbin said. “If you’re left-handed, you’re in trouble. If you’re right-handed, you’re in trouble. I do know in talking to our hitters, the ball is very dark downstairs. He throws a fastball that’s very heavy. It works in the lower quadrants of the zone. He’s got a good breaking ball, and there’s a changeup too.”

The breaking ball and changeup weren’t on display much in 2020 as Crochet didn’t need to stray too far from the fastball against most of the hitters he faced, but Matt Zaleski told James Fegan of The Athletic that the slider and changeup are both in play for Crochet as he continues to feel his way out in the big leagues.

“He throws his changeup real well,” Zaleski said. “At least if it’s a ball, it’s a strike to ball pitch. Same with the slider. He’s got a good feel for those off-speed pitches. Generally, guys who throw 100 mph don’t have the greatest feel for some of those off-speed pitches but that’s the one thing that stuck out, was his ability to throw his slider and his changeup for strikes and then have 100 mph in the back pocket when he needs it.”

The White Sox plan to ultimately use Crochet as a starter as they did with Chris Sale, but they will likely use Crochet out of the bullpen again in 2021, stretching him out through multi-inning relief outings. Crochet admires what Chris Sale has achieved and sees some of the lines drawn between the two southpaws, but doesn’t think it’s fair to put the two fire-ballers in the same category just yet.

“I feel like it’s kind of tough to make on me as I have not achieved anything as close to Chris [Sale] has achieved, but it’s definitely nice to hear and nice to see,” Crochet said.

As for Crochet’s immediate future and role with the White Sox, he doesn’t care where the White Sox use him, he just wants the ball. 

“I really haven’t been here that long, so I’m still getting used to a lot of things and still trying to take everything in stride,” Crochet said. “I don’t really have a preference. Just whenever they give me the ball, it’s to go in there and get outs.”

Some have opined that Crochet would be better served heading to the minor leagues to return to the original plan for him, being stretched out to work as a starting pitcher. The fear for some is that if he returns to the White Sox bullpen in 2021, the goal of him becoming a starting pitcher will never be reached. He’ll become a valuable facet of one of the best bullpens in baseball, and not have an opportunity to stretch out for a starting workload. 

I tend to believe that whether or not that is true, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Crochet becomes a high-leverage left-handed weapon out of the bullpen in the long-term scheme of things. I’ve heard that spending a first-round draft pick on a reliever would be a failure, but to that, I would remind those of that line of thinking of the last decade of White Sox first-rounders.

I’m not advocating that Crochet become a forever reliever, but for now, it works for Crochet and it works tremendously for a team looking to compete for a World Series.

Featured Photo: David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports