White Sox top pick Garrett Crochet has stuff to meet lofty expectations

Comparisons to Chris Sale don’t faze the Tennessee left-hander. His pitching coach’s advice: ‘Just be yourself.’

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Left-hander Garrett Crochet was taken with the 11th pick in the MLB Draft by the White Sox. (AP)

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Within minutes of the White Sox selecting Tennessee left-hander Garrett Crochet with the 11th pick Wednesday night in the draft, the comparisons that had been made to Chris Sale already were percolating on the MLB Network broadcast and social media.

It was more about Crochet’s stuff, his three-pitch mix, arm angle and 6-6 frame, although he has more meat on the bones at 220 pounds than Sale, the string-bean lefty drafted 13th overall by the Sox in 2010. Sox scouting director Mike Shirley, while trumpeting Crochet’s velocity, slider and spin rates, did what he could to tap the brakes on comps to the perennial Cy Young candidate.

“Chris Sale is an extraordinary pitcher who always will be in White Sox history,” Shirley said. “I told Garrett Crochet it’s an outstanding piece of your life to be compared to Chris Sale. But please proceed as being Garrett Crochet.”

As the father of Brewers lefty Brett Anderson, Crochet’s college pitching coach, Frank Anderson, knows something about the realm Crochet is graduating to. Anderson, 59, said Crochet is the most talented pitcher he has coached, and he knows expectations on a 20-year-old can be hard to deal with, especially for one who blossomed after his freshman year and hasn’t posted great numbers (4.64 career ERA) in two-plus college seasons.

Anderson’s advice?

“Just go out there and be yourself and don’t try to do too much,” he said.

Crochet knows of the comparisons, blared louder because the Sox drafted him. He doesn’t seem to mind.

“I definitely see those, but it’s tough to make on me as I haven’t achieved anything close to what Chris has achieved,” he said. “But it’s nice to see. Actually, when I was developing a slider, I tried to shape it the same way Chris does.”

As for health concerns, Crochet says the soreness he felt in his shoulder before a season that would be abbreviated by the coronavirus is gone. That he throws across his body shouldn’t be a concern, Anderson said.

“Not for me it’s not,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time; most left-handers throw across their bodies somewhat.”

And Crochet throws free and easy, Anderson said.

“We’ve really worked to kind of tame [the delivery] down a little bit,” Anderson said. “He got to where in the fall, he’d throw nice and easy, and I’d say, ‘What was it, 92, 93 [mph]? And they’d say, ‘Coach, he didn’t throw a pitch under 95.’ It was 96-100. And that’s when it’s right, when it’s effortless, not overthrowing, and the ball just jumps out of his hand.”

In Crochet’s first game this spring, his velocity became a thing. Tennessee coaches played “over/under 95” with what his first pitch would be.

“I took the under because I thought he might try to [ease] the first one in there. Well, the first one was 97, and the second one was 99,” Anderson said.

That’s 10 mph better since his freshman year.

That was a sign of big things to come.

“This was going to be his breakout year,” Anderson said.

“We joke now because his changeup velocity is like 88-91, and his first scrimmage in the fall of his freshman year, his fastball was 86-87. The difference is, he was like 189 pounds. Now he’s almost 230. He has grown into a man.”

And he was growing as a pitcher. That changeup, Anderson said, “has really good depth. It gets to about 15 feet in front of the plate, and it will sink and dive.”

With that going for him, added to the heater and a sweeping slider, it was easy to see why the Sox pounced at No. 11.

“Some of the best stuff I’ve seen as an amateur scout,” Shirley said.

“The fastball is top of the charts. The slider is wipeout at times, a pitch that is going to continue to develop. The shape is proper. The changeup is a pitch we’re excited about, how he’s going to execute against right-handers. The delivery has some deception.”

And the mindset has some bulldog tendencies. Sound like a certain other 6-6 left-hander?

“He really likes to compete,” Anderson said. “He can be hard on himself, but he likes the ball when the game is on the line. To me, that’s one of the biggest things.”

The Sox broke in Sale as a reliever, and while they project Crochet as a starter, his availability as a reliever at some point in the upcoming shortened season with expanded rosters is not out of the question.

“It’s definitely something I’m comfortable with,” he said. “It’s something I was able to do in college. My freshman and sophomore year, I kind of bounced around between roles and felt like I was a Swiss army knife. Right now after being drafted, I’m ready to do whatever the White Sox want me to do. If they want me to come through the bullpen, that’s something I would do.

“I’ve always envisioned myself a starter. If I were to pull the Chris Sale maneuver and work up as a reliever and turn into a starter, if that’s what the White Sox want me to do to help the team, that’s what I’ll do.”

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