Sox fireballer Crochet a potentially potent playoff weapon originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Garrett Crochet didn't exactly come out of nowhere.
He was the White Sox first-round pick back in June, and on draft night, there were evaluators wondering on live TV if he could wind up pitching in the majors this season. It seemed like a rather ludicrous suggestion at the time, considering how patient the White Sox have been with their top-ranked prospects throughout their rebuilding process.
But after launching out of rebuilding mode and into contending mode in the form of one of the best records in baseball, the White Sox are in a different spot than they were, oh, three months ago.
And so with 10 games left on the regular-season schedule, there was Crochet, called up to the big league bullpen, his first pitches as a professional coming not in rookie ball or short season or even in the late stages of an A-ball campaign.
They were against the Cincinnati Reds. And they were fast.
Crochet has gone from down-the-road starting-pitching possibility to a potential member of the White Sox playoff 'pen in 2020. And if he keeps showing what he did in his first couple major league appearances over the weekend, he could be a heck of a weapon to unleash on opposing hitters on the game's biggest stage.
Crochet hit triple digits on the radar gun with six of the 13 pitches he threw in his big league debut Friday, then he added seven more in the 15 pitches he threw Sunday. He's faced seven batters, given up one hit and retired the rest. He throws absolute gas, striking out two of the three hitters he faced Friday.
There are a lot of possibilities for the playoff roster, and White Sox relievers have been generally great this season, giving the team a bunch of options to choose from. But none of the rest can do what Crochet can do: throw 101 miles an hour.
So just how much consideration are the White Sox giving to bringing Crochet along for the playoff ride during the rest of his week-and-a-half audition?
"You hope every outing that he has here until the end of the season will position him for that opportunity in a playoff run," White Sox player-development director Chris Getz said Monday. "He's pitched well so far. He needs to continue to, certainly, pound the zone, use all three pitches, stay within himself. And if he's able to do that, it doesn't take the best evaluator in baseball to know that we should put him in a position to help our major league club down this playoff stretch, this playoff run.
"Playoffs are certainly a different animal, it's an even greater stage. ... You're playing against the best teams in baseball, and you've got a three-game set right out of the gate. And you don't know what the game's going to bring you on a daily basis and then a shortened series.
"But I think just getting him more reps down the stretch will give him more confidence: 'Hey, I can go out there, and I can do this and trust my ability.' And if he's able to do that, we've got a chance at something that could really help us."
It's, of course, a lot to ask of a 21-year-old who made all of one start at the University of Tennessee before his junior season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. He then started his pro career in a season with no minor league games. Prior to Friday, the only experience he had against professional hitters came in simulated games at the White Sox alternate training site in Schaumburg.
But Crochet has talked since getting drafted about his willingness to accept the challenge of pitching in the majors so soon. And he's looked the part in his first two trips to a big league mound, making the White Sox look good for making the decision to bring him up just months after he was drafted, Chris Sale style.
"If we are going to challenge this person, who has not pitched much this year, who has not pitched in the minor leagues, to pitch for our major league team, would he be able to handle that?" Getz said, describing how that decision was made. "Certainly a difficult question to answer, but based on all the feedback and what I was witnessing, you’ve got the stuff and the tools that speak major league pitcher.
"Emotionally, can he handle this? And we felt like he could. And after watching his two outings, I think, needless to say, he’s handling it well and we’ll continue to challenge him. We are all very excited both organizationally, and I’m sure fans to watch him pitch because it’s a rarity to see a 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher with the story that he has go out there and throw the way he has.
"We saw the upper 90s touching 100-plus in Schaumburg. We saw the nasty slider. He’s got a really good changeup. You don’t know how a kid is going to take to the major league stage in which he went in there, and he’s throwing strikes and using all three pitches. I’m excited to see what’s in store."
What's in store could be some wildly high-stakes appearances in the month of October.
The White Sox will spend the next week figuring out what they're playoff roster will look like, and there are still some pretty big unknowns that could dramatically alter their visions for the postseason bullpen, with manager Rick Renteria saying Monday that the team is still "cautiously optimistic" that Aaron Bummer and/or Carlos Rodón could return from their lengthy injured-list stays before time runs out on the regular season.
If Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning are to be the team's playoff rotation, then what does the bullpen look like? Alex Colomé, Evan Marshall, Jimmy Cordero, Codi Heuer, Matt Foster and Ross Detwiler would figure to be obvious inclusions. Same goes for Bummer, if he's healthy. Jace Fry has performed well enough to make the cut. And Gio González and Reynaldo López might not make the playoff rotation, but they could eat up innings in relief roles.
But what about Steve Cishek, an offseason addition who's been mostly relegated to mop-up duty this season? And what if Rodón is ready to go, could he earn a bullpen role?
As mentioned, though, not one arm on that list can unleash the kind of heat that Crochet can. And that's the kind of tool that would be very nice to have in the tool box for Renteria as he makes what's expected to be a flurry of pitching changes during the White Sox playoff run, however long it lasts.
It's hard to believe that a bullpen that's put up some of the best numbers in the American League could find another gear so late in the season. But that's what Crochet has, another gear. Imagine that triple-digit heat mowing down hitters in the playoffs. In the World Series.
That opportunity might be too good to pass up.