How's this for a late-season surprise?
A day after clinching the franchise's first playoff berth in a dozen years, the White Sox made a shocker of a roster move, bringing Garrett Crochet, their first-round pick in this summer's draft, up from the team's alternate training site in Schaumburg to join the big league bullpen for the final 10 days of the regular season.
Whether it be the minimal experience he had this season — he made just one start before his collegiate season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then started his pro career in a year with no minor league games — or the White Sox recent history of patience when it comes to their top-rated prospects, it seemed unlikely that Crochet would make the jump to the major leagues so quickly after being drafted.
But it's not as if there was no talk of such a possibility, with evaluators talking on draft night about his potential to do just that, to follow Chris Sale's path to the big leagues. The White Sox selected Sale with the No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft and brought him up for his big league debut two months later. A decade on, they're doing the same with Crochet, who they spent the No. 11 pick on in June.
Like Sale, Crochet will pitch out of the White Sox bullpen, though general manager Rick Hahn said the long-term plan remains for Crochet to be part of the rotation. Unlike Sale, Crochet will have the chance to be the rare player to be drafted and play in the playoffs in the same year. Crochet is eligible to be a part of the White Sox playoff roster, should they choose to include him. They'll spend the next 10 days deciding if that's something they want to do.
"I hope he doesn't feel pressured over the next 10 days to show more than he's capable of doing, because what he's capable of doing is more than enough to succeed at the big league level," Hahn said. "We're just going to see here his composure, his ability to stand out there on the mound and, with confidence, attack big league hitters.
"It's not a small task. We realize that. He's barely had the opportunity to pitch in college this season, much less face big league hitters before, or even many professional hitters, really any professional hitters outside of our own organization in Schaumburg. So we're not quite sure what we're going to get.
"But we felt, given the ability, given the tools, that this was a worthwhile opportunity to see if he could be a potential piece for us over the next several weeks. And when he returns to the rotation for the long term, this experience, whether it's just these 10 days or it goes deep into October, will serve him well, will help him understand what is needed to succeed at this level, much less, if it's in October, the highest challenges that this level has to offer."
While Crochet was lauded on draft night as a potential quick-mover through the minor league system, this seems to be one of many examples of the White Sox operating in a new world now that they've entered the contention phase of their rebuild. It would have been extremely difficult to forecast this kind of a move in the earlier parts of the rebuild. But the White Sox have rapidly jumped from rebuilders to top-of-the-AL contenders and have shown they are as capable as any team of winning the World Series this season.
The White Sox spent a high draft pick on Crochet for a reason, because of the kind of ability he has when it comes to getting batters out, and they obviously believe that could be a very valuable tool to have at their disposal come October.
We'll see if Crochet makes it that far, if his big league stay in 2020 lasts longer than just the next week and a half. But this is a real win-now move for the White Sox — though not one that throws any kind of wrench into their long-term planning — as they look to make themselves as strong as possible for an extended playoff run.