Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are in heated discussions, as both parties hope to work out an official proposal for bringing back baseball, although, as often is the case, money seems to stand in their way. Fighting over money during a pandemic may seem rather petty, but it’s no longer just a squabble; we now have players refusing to participate.
Thursday morning, ESPN reported that Rays’ starting pitcher Blake Snell assured those following him on Twitch that it’s “just not worth it.”
“No, I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?” — Blake Snell
Honestly, I don’t blame the guy. The players already agreed to pro-rated salaries back in March. And even though there are certain scenarios where the players could make more money by agreeing to a 50-50 split with the league, there’s also the chance of a second-wave and another suspension to the season, resulting in a loss for both parties. Why would the player’s risk any more than they have to?
But moving away from negative baseball news and back to the draft, another mock popped up on Wednesday — Keith Law’s from The Athletic. If you missed it, a few days ago, we looked at Kiley McDaniel’s mock draft (at ESPN), and today we’re checking out his mentor’s. Just like McDaniel’s list from Tuesday, Law covered the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, providing small excerpts on why he chose each player. I’ve disagreed with a lot of Law’s work recently, but his pick for the Braves at no. 25 seems… let’s just say… interesting:
Garrett Crochet, LHP
Before I share Law’s comments on Crochet as a player, I want to provide you with the kid’s numbers at Tennessee (here’s a hint: it doesn’t look good). His stats for 2020 barely exist. As a junior this season, Crochet only made one start, lasting 3.1 innings and striking out six with no walks and no runs allowed. Nothing to see there. But his freshman (2018) and sophomore (2019) seasons are hardly inspiring…
- 2018: 5-6 record, 5.51 ERA, 63.2 IP
- 2019:5-3 record, 4.02 ERA, 65.0 IP
Even more confusing, in regards to Law’s pick, is that Crochet isn’t even a full-time starter (or hasn’t been during his time with the Volunteers). In his 36 total games-pitched, only 13 have been starts. Now, it’s never wise to completely depend on numbers or even playing-time in college, but if a kid can’t win a full-time starting role at the collegiate level, what makes you think he’s first-round material?
(Crochet was drafted in the 34th round by the Brewers in 2017, but didn’t sign.)
However, Law has Crochet at no. 25 this year for a reason. Let’s see what it is…
“I have heard Crochet going higher than this, more by range than to any specific team, but he threw just 3.2 innings this year in an outing barely anyone saw, and his secondary stuff wasn’t very good last year, so the enormous arm strength is really his main calling card — and I don’t know that that merits a top 15-ish pick in this college pitching class.”
Wow, so according to Law… 25th may even be too low. Crochet possesses some intangibles that aren’t showing up on the stat sheet, which seems reasonable when just looking at his bio. The Mississippi native is a 6-foot-6 lefty for one thing, so if anything his size should garner some attention. Also, a source that usually has things figured out when it comes to prospects — Eric Logenhagen at FanGraphs has Crochet listed as the third-best lefty in the 2020 class, or 19th overall. That’s a better ranking than the high school righty we looked at earlier this week — Justin Lange (the 18-year-old that throws 100 mph+).
So what is it about Crochet? Why, despite being what essentially amounts to an average run of the mill SEC pitcher (stats-wise), is he tabbed to go so high in the upcoming draft?
Law doesn’t offer much analysis in his excerpt regarding Crochet, and Logenhagen only has one sentence for the kid’s notes on THE BOARD. However, the latter has Crochet comped to a pitcher we’re all quite familiar with: “Crochet was up to 99 in his only 2020 outing. He has an Andrew Miller velo/sweeping slider look.”
….Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. Miller, now almost 35, isn’t what he once was, but the seasoned reliever has averaged 11+ strikeouts per nine in each of his last eight seasons, thanks to a mid-90s fastball and high-80s slider. From 2014-17, Miller threw baseball’s filthiest slide piece (according to FanGraphs’ Pitch Value), and only Kenley Jansen was worth more WAR. During that stint, Miller appeared in the top-10 twice in the AL Cy Young vote (as a reliever!).
So if that’s the kind of pitcher folks in the industry believe Crochet to be one day, then sure, maybe a first-round selection is warranted. Let’s look at some videos.
Prospects Live provided a detailed scouting report of Crochet’s lone start in 2020 — a March 7 outing versus Wright State. As mentioned above, Crochet went just 3.1 innings, leaving the game after complaining of shoulder soreness (which isn’t that uncommon for the first outing of the year, but still a bit worrisome). Still, the Andrew Miller-Esque potential certainly looks promising from the video. They have Crochet touching 99 mph twice in this start:
And as you can see (and as the author of the report notes), everything Crochet throws breaks glove-side (sweeps from left to right). That’s dangerous… and in a good way. Check out this slider…
Rightfully, the only pitch from Crochet that breaks arm-side is his changeup. Prospects Live has Crochet’s change rated below-average, but MLB Pipeline has it at a 60. This one here looks like one of his best…
And lastly, if you can believe it (given his side-angle release) Crochet also throws a 12-6 curveball. He doesn’t feature it a ton, and it’s probably one of the weaker offerings in his arsenal… but heck that’s four swing-and-miss pitches.
So maybe I was wrong. Perhaps Crochet is a first-round talent (Prospects Live has him going inside the top-20). His deception alone gives him an advantage over any other lefty, as there aren’t many in this class that can do what he does in terms of the angle in which he releases the ball. And the good thing about deception is that it usually comes natural for pitchers. Crochet’s style of pitching creates that deception, and as long as he’s healthy and on the mound, he’ll always have it.
However, guys like Crochet do tend to be injury risks (granted, ALL pitchers are). With side-winding sliders and elite deception, there’s also extra stress on elbows and shoulders, and him leaving an outing this season isn’t something to overlook.
This is what’s so terrible about baseball being suspended. For the Braves, a pitcher like Crochet could be a compelling pick in the first round, but boy would it be nice to see him pitch, especially considering his middling numbers thus far in college. Taking a player with a weak track record is quite the risk, but it’s multiplied even more when you have very little to go from. On the one hand, I’m not sure it’s worth the gamble, though on the other… this may be the type of talent that’s available late in the opening round.
Perhaps it merely depends on what kind of strategy the Braves have for the 2020 draft. Is it going to be high-risk, high-reward or more “let’s just make sure we shore up some weaknesses with dependable and well-known talent” (remember, this year’s draft is only five rounds). If it’s the former, than I think Crochet — who seems to have starter upside and perhaps the floor of a high-leverage reliever — could be a compelling pick for the Braves. We’ll see what the rest of the industry thinks as more mocks are released.
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