Lefty Crockett is Making a Name for Himself
Steve Eby | On 21, Feb 2014
The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need to answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ young players who likely won’t make the roster but could impact the Tribe’s season before it ends.
It seems that every season an unexpected player makes the jump from the Indians minor league system up to the Major League ball club. In 2014, you might want to start expecting the unexpected.
Drafted less than one year ago, left-handed relief pitcher Kyle Crockett zoomed through the organization at lightning speed in 2013, jumping from his alma mater at the University of Virginia all the way up to the AA Akron Aeros.
“It was a lot of fun to get to travel around and see the different cities,” the 22-year old Crockett said. “To move up like that…it’s not easy. Fortunately, I was in a position where they didn’t have many lefties. It was just a position that they needed and I was able to go in and help them out. It was a great time just being able to be a part of so many teams like that.”
“He came out of the University of Virginia, started at Mahoning Valley, went to Lake County and then skipped Carolina and went to Akron and only gave up one run over the entire time,” said Carter Hawkins, the Indians Assistant Director of Player Development. “We feel like he has a great chance to impact our Major League bullpen as well.”
Drafted by the Indians in the fourth round of the 2013 Draft (111th overall), Crockett dominated the opposition at every stop along the way including being named to the First-Team All-ACC and then allowed just one single run through his three minor league stops and 24.2 minor league innings. All told, Crockett’s first season of professional baseball ended with a 1-0 record and a miniscule 0.36 ERA. In addition, Crockett walked just five batters and struck out 32.
“It’s been great,” Crockett said of his short time with the Indians organization. “They’ve been very welcoming. I couldn’t have been picked by a better organization. Everyone has been helping me get acquainted and to get through the process of professional baseball. I feel like they do it top-tier.”
“We’re excited about how he goes about his business,” Hawkins added. “He has great composure on the mound. He’s calm, collected and has some deception. He throws strikes. He can get a left hander and a right hander out.”
Crockett’s deception comes from a windup that has a small hitch in it. He bounces his hands up and down as he goes through his motion and hides the ball until the last possible moment before his release.
“My biggest strength is probably deception,” Crockett said. “I think my windup is a little bit different than what people are used to seeing. Being a middle reliever – a one inning guy – I think it’s probably a little harder to adjust to that in that short amount of time.”
Since the Indians drafted Crockett last June, they have also made two trades for lefthanders that have had a tremendous impact on the Indians bullpen outlook. Last July, they traded for Marc Rzepczynski from the St. Louis Cardinals and then acquired Josh Outman from the Colorado Rockies in the Drew Stubbs deal. Those two pitchers are odds-on favorites to win jobs in the Tribe bullpen, but the young southpaw Crockett is definitely on the Major League radar should something change.
“Crockett throws the ball over the plate,” Indians Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway said. “Guys who throw the ball over the plate and can challenge guys…you can see them maybe in just a year and a half up in the big leagues.”
The quick rise through the minors by Crockett brings to mind another young, bullpen arm that has made quite the impact on the Big League club already. A fixture in Terry Francona’s late innings, right hander Cody Allen had a similar journey as Crockett is on just a couple short years ago.
“Kyle was drafted last year and had a meteoric rise through the system,” Hawkins added. “The guy’s like Cody Allen—he took a very similar path.”
Despite the similarities between the two, Crockett doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“I really don’t look at it as an advantage,” Crockett said. “Cody Allen works really hard and is a great player. I think that he motivates not just me, but a lot of players. It’s just the way that he goes about his business and he helps the team get wins. I think that we can learn a lot from him and not just the way he rose up quickly.”
“To do what Cody did was very rare because he did it so quick,” Callaway said, “but I think that anyone can come on that quick.
With Rzepczynski and Outman in the fold, Crockett will likely begin the 2014 campaign again in the Akron bullpen, although this time he would be playing for the renamed RubberDucks instead of the Aeros. A promotion to the upper levels of the system, however, is certainly not out of the question for the man who is yet to play a full season of professional ball.
“Wherever they need me, I will just be happy to play,” Crockett said. “I think that you learn that it’s kind of a grind after a while. It’s a long season—especially with spring training. Coming off the UVA season, I got a little break, so I haven’t experienced a full season yet. From what I’ve heard, it’s a lot of hard work and you have to keep a routine and stick to it.”
As he begins his first spring training in Goodyear, Arizona, Crockett is focused on one simple goal.
“I just want to get better…there are a lot of points mentally and physically in the game that you can improve on. I try to wake up every day and just get better and work harder. I think the mental part of the game is all about being comfortable out there…working both sides of the plate, throwing your pitch whenever you want to throw it.”
Whenever Crockett does make the jog from the Indians bullpen to the mound at Progressive Field, fans can expect to see a lanky, composed, strike-throwing machine.
“I’m not real outgoing. I’m pretty composed on the mound, I think,” Crockett said of himself. “I’m not going to show an over-amount of emotion. When there are big plays, I’ll get pumped up and I’ll try to pump the team up, but I’m not a real overly emotional guy…I just want to work to help the team win.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer