Every day you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or their key prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.
- Position: Left-handed Relief Pitcher
- Age: 22
- Acquired: Amateur Draft, 4th Round, 111th Overall, 2013
To say Kyle Crockett skipped over AAA on his path to helping the Tribe in 2014 is both true and untrue, in equal measures. After putting up truly elite numbers in A-ball in 2013 (striking out 23 over 14.1 IP with only 3 walks, 1HR, and 1 ER), Crockett moved to AA within months of being drafted and posted almost equally elite number, slipping only in his K (9 over 10.1 IP) in Akron.
So it is no surprise that he moved quickly, starting 2014 back with the RubberDucks, baffling Eastern League hitters for April and early May. Over 15.2 IP, he struck out 17 (bringing back the nearly double-digit K-rate he left in A-ball in 2013), walking just three, and again not allowing a single HR. His 0.57 ERA may have been supported by a .211 BABIP, but even adjusting for that, his FIP was a stellar 1.95. Crockett was more or less unhittable.
And so the University of Virginia prospect temporarily skipped AAA, and made three mid-May appearances at Progressive Field, throwing 4.1 innings with just one strike out and three walks. He gave up only two hits, but one was a HR to Jed Lowrie, the sixth hitter he faced in the big leagues. That was his only run, resulting in a sterling 2.08 ERA that did not truly reflect a guy struggling to adapt to big league bats. His 7.75 FIP is more reflective of his control problems and the somewhat surprising HR allowed, considering his stinginess with the long ball in the minors.
Crockett hopped the bus to Columbus after those three outings, and it was fair, at that point, to wonder if he might not be on and off that bus all season. But over two weeks, six appearances and 8.2 innings with the Clippers, Crockett reminded everyone why he was a top-ten prospect in the organization, striking out 6, walking none, and allowing just 7 hits (and no HR). His complete minor league track record, as of June 8 is pretty impressive: 49 IP, 55 K, 8 BB, 1 HR, 3 ER. You can't really ask a guy to do much more than that. On June 13,
Crockett re-took the mound for the big club, and he did not disappoint - 25.2 IP, 27 K, 5 BB, 1 HR, 24 H, and 5 ER. His 1.75 ERA and 2.47 FIP both speak to a potentially elite RP, particularly coming from the left side. Crockett did display some discouraging tendencies against righties. Opposite-handed hitters posted a .352 wOBA against him (.246 for lefties), while he allowed a 5.22 FIP to righties (1.91 to lefties).
While those splits are concerning, he didn't show the same issues in the minors. He struck out RH batters at a higher clip than lefites, walked them at a lower rate, gave up fewer HR to them, and just generally pitched as well against righties as lefties in his minor league career. So there is reason to hope that Crockett can right the ship (pun intended) against righties and become more than a LOOGY. But if your worst case is a near-unhittable LOOGY, that has real value.
2014 Grade: A-
For a 22 year old less than a year removed from college when he made his debut, those overall numbers are outstanding, and deserving of an A. I'll tag on the minus for those splits - a little nudge to remind him there is room to improve.
I think it is safe to say that Crockett's minor league career is over - or at least should be. He has nothing left to prove at Columbus and is a valuable cog in Terry Francona's bullpen. The question facing Crockett is if he can tame right-handed bats, or has to be protected. Early in the year, I would hope Tito would deploy Crockett in situations where he can face guys from both sides of the plate - bring him in to face a L-R-L trio, for example - so he can both help the team by destroying lefties and establish himself against righties. If they turn him into a LOOGY now, they'll have a valuable piece, but potentially be limiting his long-term potential. He's shown enough to earn the shot, and has the ability to be a late-inning fixture.