Scoreless Crockett Rises to All Challenges
Danny Madden | On 29, Apr 2014
When a baseball player gets drafted, that’s a monumental goal achieved within itself. When you go and play for three different minor league levels within the same year that you were drafted, that’s something that’s just unheard of. Not for lefty reliever Kyle Crockett. After playing a total of twelve games between Short Season-A Mahoning Valley and Low-A Lake County in 2013, Crockett is starting his second season with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks in 2014.
Crockett, 22 years-old, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fourth round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft. Since then, he’s had a career ERA of 0.27 with a total of 39 strikeouts, six walks, and two saves in 33 innings pitched. That’s impressive. Crockett certainly has the stuff to be a major league asset for the Indians soon.
Crockett attended college at the University of Virginia where he continued his baseball career before being drafted by the Indians. Some of the credit to him moving through the ranks goes to him gaining the extra baseball experience while in college.
“I really didn’t look at it any different. I pretty much pitched the same way I did in college,” explains Crockett on his thoughts of pro ball. “Even though our pitching coach called our pitches in college, I kind of took away what he taught us and took that mentality into pro ball. It’s been pretty much the same, it’s been useful for me.”
Many prospects drafted out of high school tend to take more time moving up through the system than those players who have played in college. “I think it has something to do with the maturity thing. Being able to face tough hitters and seeing a lot guys who have just been drafted,” says Crockett regarding younger prospects. “You’re pitching against prospects before you even know it. I think high school guys need a little more time to develop and getting used to pro ball. I’m glad I went to college.”
As far as his repertoire goes, Crockett features a fastball, change up and slider. Some he’s still refining in Akron. What makes Crockett so good as a pitcher is that he has no fear when he’s on the mound. It’s a quality his manager admires.
“He’s very under control out there, in any situation. He hasn’t had many tough innings, but in the ones he has, the game doesn’t speed up on him,” RubberDucks manager Dave Wallace said. “He’s got some deception, he’s got life on his fastball. He locates it, and he’s got a nice change up and breaking ball. Guys just don’t see it well. They don’t put good swings on it.”
For most left-handed pitchers in the MLB today, they are used as a lefty specialists. That’s not the same case for Crockett. He can face both right and left-handed batters with ease. On Saturday April 26, he was summoned from the bullpen in the eighth inning with the RubberDucks leading 2-1. The three batters that were due to face Crockett were a righty, and two switch hitters. He was able to make two fly outs and add another strike out to make seven on the year.
“I feel like I might have a slight advantage over left-handers, it might be a little easier to pitch to them,” says Crockett. “All my life I’ve been throwing to left-handers and right-handers so I attack them the same. I feel pretty comfortable throwing to both.”
So far this season with Double-A Akron, Crockett has been pitching in mostly the late innings of the game. These tend to be the more high leverage situations where the team needs to rely on someone who they can count on. These are types of situations that Crockett thrives on.
“Ya, I like pitching in them. Gives you a little more something to go out there and compete for,” Crockett said.
Wallace also feels very comfortable bringing him in during these innings. He’s someone who he can trust to give him a solid relief effort from the pen. It’s also his way to get Crockett ready for the major league level.
“We are trying to match him up a little bit more, with high leverage situations like the seventh, eighth, ninth, it might even come in the sixth. Also against the best of their lineup,” says Wallace.
Along with having a successful season thus far, Crockett has also picked up his first two saves of his professional baseball career. He may not be used as a closer, and Crockett may not exactly see himself filing that role in the near future, but the door is always open.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Crockett said. “I did it in college so I’m kind of used to it. I don’t see myself doing that much in the future. I see myself as more of a seventh-eighth inning guy. If that’s what they want me to do then I’d be happy to do it. “
Even though Crockett has flown through the system, he’s still a very humble player. He’s just here to help his team in any way that he can. He’s not worried about which team he’ll be playing for in a week, month, or year. He’s living in the present and enjoying his time with Double-A Akron.
“Just whatever they need me to do, if they push me up I’ll be happy or if they keep me here I’ll be happy,” Crockett said.
Since Crockett has arrived at Akron, he has gone a total of 18.2 scoreless innings. The Indians are notorious for quickly moving pitchers up through the system. In 2012, it was reliever Cody Allen who was only in Akron for two weeks before he was called up to Triple-A Columbus. In 2013, it was starting pitcher Danny Salazar who was the opening day pitcher for Double-A Akron, and ended his season starting in the 2013 American League Wild Card game. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Crockett could be in Cleveland before the end of the 2014 season.
“I’m bringing the same mentality I do every year. I don’t really look at how they’re going to move me or what they’re going to do,” Crockett said. “I can go up or down. That’s really for what the front office guys want to decide.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer