When it comes to collegiate pitching in the 2020 MLB draft, the mock drafts seem to divide them into three tiers over the first 15 or so picks.
- Tier 1: Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M; Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
- Tier 2: Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville; Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota
- Tier 3: Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee; Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma
Lacy and Hancock are unanimously off the board before the White Sox get to make their selection at No. 11, while Detmers and Meyer occasionally hang around.
When it comes to Tier 3, the White Sox would seem to have their pick, unless teams picking earlier want to go well under slot. Under normal circumstances, Crochet and his peers would be there for the taking.
The question: Should the White Sox want to take him?
Garrett Crochet served as a spot starter and swingman out of the Tennessee Volunteers bullpen his first two years on campus. Success was sporadic for Crochet in his freshman season. Against Cincinnati, Crochet only allowed one earned run in eight innings, and eight strikeouts to zero walks. Then in back-to-back performances against SEC stalwarts Florida and LSU, Crochet gave up eight earned runs in each appearance while allowing seven home runs total. The unevenness resulted in a mediocre 2018 body of work: 5.51 ERA in 63.2 innings with 62 strikeouts to 26 walks.
Crochet picked up a four-inning save against Appalachian State to start his sophomore season, striking out nine out of 12 batters faced. He followed up by pitching 5⅓ innings out of the bullpen against Indiana, striking out nine hitters while allowing an earned run on two hits. That usage out of the bullpen was consistent until Crochet got the start against Georgia standout and fellow first-round talent, Emerson Hancock. Crochet stepped up big-time, pitching five scoreless innings and striking out six to just one walk in a 2-0 win for Tennessee.
Later in the season, Crochet was struck by a line drive in his appearance against Ole Miss that required emergency jaw surgery. Amazingly, Crochet returned 14 days later and helped Tennessee win it’s first NCAA Regional game since 2005, pitching 2⅓ scoreless innings against UNC-Wilmington. Despite missing two weeks, Crochet finished the 2019 season pitching 65 innings with a 4.02 ERA and 81 strikeouts to 22 walks.
Crochet was invited to Team USA training camp this past summer but did not appear in any games. There was a lot of buzz surrounding Crochet heading into 2020. He gained significant velocity on his fastball at times, hitting 100 mph with a sharper slider. However, Crochet missed the beginning of 2020 due to shoulder soreness. Coach Tony Vitello told Tennessee media that sitting Crochet was for precautionary reasons.
Crochet did make one appearance before the season shutdown against Wright State. Limited to just 42 pitches, Crochet overpowered hitter by frequently hitting 97+ mph with the fastball. Spanning 3⅓ scoreless innings, Crochet struck out six with no walks, allowing just a double and an infield single.
Thanks to social media, we can witness Garrett Crochet’s progression as a high school junior to the present day.
It’s remarkable to witness a 14 to 16 mph velocity increase over four years. Still, the jump from freshman to his sophomore season was thanks to a mechanical adjustment. Very similar to Lucas Giolito’s adjustment, Crochet shortened his arm swing in its path to release. With a high leg kick that at times reminds of Bronson Arroyo, Crochet generates a lot of movement downhill to the plate.
The combination of a short release in a 6’6″ frame has the fastball on top of hitters in a hurry. Crochet, in his start against Wright State, did an excellent job of hitting his targets on both corners of the plate. He got burned by a double when the hitter guessed correctly and shortened up on an inside fastball. Still, right-handed hitters continued to struggle against the outside heat.
Watching earlier films of Crochet, you’ll see more curves than sliders. The curve was a mid-70’s mph pitch that had more arch with an aim to fall below the zone. As the fastball velocity increased, so did the throwing frequency of his slider. It is a beneficial pitch that Crochet can throw for a strike helping keep hitters off balance.
I find Crochet’s draft stock a bit baffling. This proclamation could end up being like when Keith Law thought Chris Sale was a reliever, but I do believe Crochet’s future is coming out of the bullpen. The two-pitch mix of fastball and slider are major-league caliber. The fastball is 70-grade, and the slider could be a 60-grade pitch. That’ll play at the next level, but I’m not sold if Crochet can pick up the ball every fifth game and consistently get into the sixth inning.
Yet, every MLB Mock Draft is going to have Crochet in the first round. He might be selected in the Top 10 if a team relies more on TrackMan data than their scouting department. It’s hard to ignore a southpaw with premium velocity and spin rates. We’ve seen how effective Josh Hader has been for the Milwaukee Brewers, and how Cleveland heavily relied on Andrew Miller in the 2016 playoffs. Crochet has a chance to be just as good as Hader and Miller, but is that worth spending a Top-15 pick on him? For a team that believes they will be in postseason contention in 2021 and 2022, possibly.
That postseason aspiration is why you’ll hear the White Sox as a potential landing spot. Having another left-hander with that fastball/slider combo out of the bullpen paired with Aaron Bummer could be devastating for future opponents. Despite that vision, If I were in the Zoom meeting room with Rick Hahn and Mike Shirley when the White Sox were up to pick at 11, my vote would be a pass on Crochet if he’s available. For a team that needs to rebuild starting pitching depth, there should still be options on the board outside of Crochet.
One landing spot I’m intrigued by is if Boston selected Crochet at pick 17. If Chaim Bloom brings the opener with him from Tampa, Crochet would be a great fit to pitch three innings every third or fourth day behind a lesser righty.
(Photo of Garrett Crochet by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)