The Chris Sale comps came within seconds.
The White Sox spent the No. 11 pick in last month’s draft on Garrett Crochet, a fireballing lefty out of the University of Tennessee, and immediately after the pick was announced, there was talk on MLB Network about Crochet looking like the former South Side ace — and potentially taking a similar path to the major leagues.
Sale was drafted in June 2010. And he was pitching out of the White Sox bullpen by August.
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Things turned out just fine for Sale, but that kind of lightning-quick journey from the draft to the bigs is a rarity. The White Sox have shown nothing but patience with their top prospects during a methodical rebuilding project that has set the team up for long-term success. A rush order on Crochet’s services, even in a season as unusual as this one and even with the White Sox entering it with postseason expectations, would seem unlikely.
Still, Crochet is not discounting being called on to make the leap to the major leagues. That doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about what the White Sox want him to, though. He’s partaking in a mental balancing act between an eagerness to reach the bigs and a desire to develop himself into someone who’s ready to do that.
“If it wasn't in the back of my mind, I probably wouldn't consider myself a competitor,” Crochet said Thursday. “That's definitely something that I'm thinking about at all times.
“But at the same time, I'm trying to juggle the new developments that I'm undergoing. … It's kind of hard to focus on trying to make the 30-man (roster) when I just threw a bullpen the day before and my four-seam command wasn't very good.
“So it's kind of just managing those two (things) right now, but I'd say I definitely have it in the back of my head at all times.”
Crochet threw a bullpen session with the media in the house at the White Sox alternate training site in Schaumburg on Thursday. He’s part of the team’s player pool, which means he’s eligible to get a big league promotion, if that’s the route the White Sox want to take. While the group in Schaumburg features many of the organization’s top ranked prospects, the team has to balance their development with getting them ready to fill in at the major league level, if needed.
That latter task was even described as the priority by White Sox player-development boss Chris Getz on Thursday.
“The priority right now is make sure these guys are ready to help our major league club,” he said. “But with that being said, development is always a piece of baseball, in general. There are always things to work on, to fine tune and prepare these guys. It's a mix of both, but these guys need to be ready because anyone here could be called upon to help our club.”
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Crochet is certainly an anyone. But it remains difficult to see him vaulting to the majors so soon after being drafted. Considering the same pandemic that wiped out so much of the Major League Baseball season did the same at the college level this year, Crochet hasn’t logged many innings. With no minor league games for him to play in, including him as part of the Schaumburg group allows him to be a part of team-run activities and get him some kind of experience as a pro rather than having him sit around for almost the entirety of a year and a half before showing up for spring training next February.
A few more, complete with a “Perfect, attaboy, Garrett” reaction on the second one pic.twitter.com/0iBE29m56G— Vinnie Duber (@VinnieDuber) July 30, 2020
So, if there’s development to be done over the course of the next couple months — if Crochet’s going to turn into the front-of-the-rotation arm the White Sox touted him as having the potential to be when they drafted him — what kind of start is he off to?
“Each day he's gotten better, every side session is improved,” Getz said. “We've got some things we're focusing on right now, and he's taking to it fairly quickly. He's a guy that takes to instruction very well. We've seen quick adjustments, and that's a sign of a guy that's going to be able to make the proper adjustments as a big leaguer.”
“The main thing is getting acclimated to the organization,” Crochet said. “I believe overall that’s the reason that I’m here currently. Definitely just want to continue to build off some of the things I’ve been working on. … Just want to continue to hone in on that, make sure I’m 100-percent confident in it.”
Expect the White Sox to make their fair share of calls to Schaumburg this season. Already, just six games into the 60-game schedule, they’ve brought pitchers Ian Hamilton and Matt Foster up to the major league squad. Baseball, in general, is experiencing a rash of pitching injuries after the brief ramp up to Opening Day, and the White Sox haven’t been immune, with Reynaldo López and Jimmy Lambert already hitting the injured list.
Again, Crochet figures to be low on the list of major league replacements. But there’s been a constant reminder about this season: Anything can happen.
So Crochet will keep thinking about the majors, just in case “anything” rolls around.