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Garrett Crochet: His Past, Present and Future With the White Sox

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On track for an eventual rotation spot, it seems likely the fireballer will see one more year out of the pen — possibly moving into the 2021 Kopech role.

MLB: ALDS-Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros
Garrett Crochet was quite good in 2021, despite a dip in velocity. What will next year have in store for the 22-year-old?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on a White Sox player
  5. Free agent options

This article delves into the career of Garrett Crochet through 2020, his 2021 season with the White Sox, and what his future looks like in the White Sox organization.

How did he get here?

As a junior for his high school squad in Ocean Springs, Miss., all Crochet did was post a 0.51 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 27 23 innings. While not posting as impressive an ERA during his senior year (2017), his team wasn’t complaining as he led his Greyhounds to the Class 6A State Semifinals by producing a 1.48 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 61 13 innings. The Milwaukee Brewers selected Crochet in the 34th round, but he opted instead to pitch for the University of Tennessee.

Crochet struggled as a freshman, as he posted a 5.51 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 17 appearances. In his 63 23 innings that year, he allowed 12 wild pitches and 13 round-trippers. The following year saw an improvement as he compiled a 4.02 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 18 appearances thanks in part to a higher strikeout rate. His 2020 season saw him pitch one productive relief outing for the Volunteers, before being shelved with mild shoulder soreness. He was close to a return — and then the pandemic shutdown prematurely ended the college season.

However, thanks to glimpses of his triple-digit fastball and impressive slider, Crochet was projected by some to be selected in the Top 10 of the 2020 MLB draft. He fell one spot lower, to the 11th pick, where the White Sox selected him not only for his pitching arsenal but also his major league readiness.

After pitching just more than two months in the alternate training site in Schaumburg, Crochet earned a call-up to the majors on September 18. In doing so, Crochet became the first player since Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (2010) to debut in the majors after completely skipping the minors. Not only did Crochet light up the radar with readings regularly over 100 mph, he was a hitter’s worst nightmare: In five appearances totaling six innings, Crochet surrendered just three hits (.143 OBA) and no walks while striking out eight (36.4%).

With the White Sox in 2021

While Crochet had a solid 2021 season, he struggled to meet the excessively high expectations Sox fans had for him based on the previous year’s results. For nearly every other rookie reliever, however, the year would be considered a success. Crochet served as the primary lefty middle reliever, in deference to the more experienced Aaron Bummer. In 54 relief appearances, Crochet posted a rock-solid 2.82 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Spanning 54 13 innings, he surrendered just 42 hits (.213 OBA) and 27 walks (11.7%) while striking out 65 hitters (28.3%).

Let’s first look into his splits. Playing at hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field didn’t matter much in Crochet’s case, as opponents hit .214 against him there as opposed to .212 on the road. Not surprisingly, Crochet’s stuff was easier to see in day games (3.92 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) than under the lights (2.14 ERA, 1.25 WHIP), Another split that wasn’t a shock: Lefties hit .171 against him while righties hit a more robust .236 versus Crochet’s offerings. The only rough month he had was in June, when he posted a 6.10 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in nine relief appearances. Somewhat surprisingly considering Crochet pitched less than 10 combined innings between college and the majors in 2020, his numbers actually improved after the All-Star break, with the exception of ERA and strikeouts.

Pre All-Star break: 27 13 IP, 2.63 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 22 H, 16 BB, 35 K
Post All-Star break: 27 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 20 H, 11 BB & 30 K

Let’s dig a bit deeper into Crochet’s repertoire. Unsurprisingly, his four-seam fastball dipped in velocity from 100.1 mph to a terrific albeit more modest 96.7. Of the three pitches in his repertoire, opponents succeeded most against this offering by slashing .288/.357/.405. This was a stark contrast to his small sample-size numbers from the year before (.167 /147/.167), and this pitch was offered 64.3% of the time. His 85.2 mph slider was Crochet’s second-most frequent pitch (27.9%) and held batters to just .141/.168/.169. Crochet’s third pitch, a 91.8 mph changeup, was used exclusively against righties. Thrown just 7.9% of the time, righties were completely neutralized by it, as evidenced an incredibly microscopic line of .000/.041/.000 — not too shabby!

Despite his decreased velocity and spending some time on the injured list due to a lower back strain, Crochet posted a respectable 1.3 bWAR, which actually exceed that of Bummer. Considering each bWAR is worth approximately $7.7 million on the free agent market per FanGraphs, against his minimum salary in 2021 Crochet produced a net value of more than $9.4 million. Crochet won’t be arbitration-eligible until the conclusion of the 2024 season, and will be under team control through the end of 2027 (barring any changes to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement).

What does the future have in store?

At the time the White Sox drafted Crochet, the team publicly stated that his long-term future is that of a starting pitcher. GM Rick Hahn continues to double down on that assessment, and there are three ways to make that happen. The most he’s ever pitched in any one season, dating back to high school, is 65 innings in 2019. So the first and least feasible option is to thrust Crochet into the MLB rotation, cold turkey, while monitoring his pitch counts closely — this would likely put a huge strain on the bullpen and potentially cause wear and tear on a fatiguing arm. A second option would be to start Crochet in the minors, where he’d pitch in lower-stress situations while larger bullpens could handle the load when he retires for the night. The third option would be to thrust Crochet into more multiple-inning situations in relief while in the majors, which would keep him on the major league roster where he really belongs. This is the likeliest avenue the team will choose, hopefully stretching him to 100 innings, provided he can stay healthy for the year.

The biggest concerns regarding Crochet in 2021 pertained to his diminishing velocity on his four-seamer. A four-mph decrease is significant, so why did this occur? He did go on the injured list early in the year due to a lower-back strain. With a little less torque, the fastball simply wasn’t as fast as fans were accustomed. Perhaps Crochet was asked by coaches to scale back in order to better preserve his future health, as he obviously doesn’t help the team if he later undergoes Tommy John surgery. Or perhaps this is his new norm, although given his extremely young age of 22, velocity loss would be surprising to say the least. Fans will get clearer answers in spring training.

While there may be discussion whirling around Crochet getting innings in the minors next season, it’s far likelier that he’ll again join Bummer in next year’s bullpen. It’s conceivable that the Sox opt to to go with a third lefty in the pen, which would remove the temptation to insert Crochet into shorter situations not ideal for his long-term development (provided the team continues to believe he’s a future starter). Among the most viable candidates to join Bummer and Crochet in the 20221 pen would be hard-throwing Anderson Severino and specialist Bennett Sousa, both of whom have recently been added to the 40-man roster. Other intriguing internal options remain, like Andrew Perez, Hunter Schryver and Zack Muckenhirn.

It seems unlikely that the Sox will pursue a lefty reliever in free agency, based upon the strength in both the majors and high minors in that area. In case you’re interested, however, the final Deep Dive of the offseason will include those options available to the White Sox.