The White Sox leaned on ability and projection more than on accomplishment Wednesday with the selection of Tennessee left-hander Garrett Crochet with the 11th pick in the MLB Draft.
Crochet’s record at Tennessee isn’t nearly as attractive as his assortment of tools, which includes a four-seam fastball that has topped out at 100 mph with a high spin rate, a sweeping slider and an above-average changeup. One popular comparison is Chris Sale, the Sox’ first-round pick in 2010, who like Crochet is 6-6 with an arm angle that nicely hides the ball in his delivery.
Sox scouting director Mike Shirley said Crochet projects as a starter, although Crochet said he would be willing to come up to the rotation through the bullpen, as Sale did.
‘‘We are talking about an elite left-handed pitcher, who we think will be a starter, with a three-pitch mix,’’ Shirley said. ‘‘The intangibles he brings in terms of toughness and athleticism are something we really gravitated toward, and we were very excited to get him at the 11th pick. The physical stuff is substantial, and it’s only going to get better.’’
‘‘I ended up right where I was supposed to end up,’’ Crochet said. ‘‘I’ve got an organization that believes in me. I’m definitely living out a dream right now. It’s something I’ve really worked hard for.’’
Crochet entered the draft rated the No. 11 college prospect by MLBPipeline.com and the No. 3 left-handed pitching prospect by Baseball America, with the best fastball among college pitchers. Drafted by the Brewers in the 34th round out of high school in 2017, Crochet went 5-3 with a 4.02 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 65 innings as a sophomore at Tennessee and was named a first-team preseason All-American by Baseball America this year.
But Crochet was limited to one appearance this season because of a sore shoulder and the coronavirus outbreak. Shoulder and back issues limited his workload to 36 appearances (13 starts) in three seasons with the Volunteers, but he said he is healthy now.
‘‘At the beginning of the season, I had a strained muscle in my shoulder,’’ Crochet said. ‘‘But after getting with my trainer, I feel strong as ever. I’ve been throwing bullpens during this quarantine.’’
In Crochet’s last regular-season start of his sophomore year, a line drive broke his jaw. He returned to pitch two weeks later, striking out four in 2„ innings against UNC-Wilmington in Tennessee’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 2005.
Crochet, 20, was throwing in the mid-80s as a freshman. Last spring, he was in the low 90s. Last fall, he was in the upper 90s. Better workouts, nutrition and lower body fat helped.
As for the Sale comparisons?
‘‘I definitely see those, but . . . I haven’t achieved anything close to what Chris has achieved,’’ Crochet said. ‘‘But it’s nice to see. Actually, when I was developing a slider, I tried to shape it the same way Chris does.’’
Crochet, a nuclear engineering major, is the first pitcher selected in the first round by the Sox since right-hander Zack Burdi in 2016.
Rounds 2 through 5 of the draft are Thursday.