Left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett has zoomed through the Cleveland Indians organization. After only parts of two seasons and 49 innings pitching in the Indians system, Crockett is now a mainstay in the team's bullpen. That's remarkable progress for the 6-foot-2, 170-pound 22-year-old.
Crockett has known success since his days pitching, playing the outfield and some first base at Poquoson (Va.) High School. A student-athlete and volunteer in programs benefiting children, Crockett had a 14-0 record and recorded a .448 batting average in 2010, his senior year.
Crockett went to the University of Virginia, where he made his name as one of the finest relievers in the country. In fact, in his junior year, he was the first pitcher in Virginia history to record saves in five consecutive games. Crockett recorded 12 saves for the season. His career ERA at Virginia was a stellar 1.98 after appearing in 88 career games. Crockett's trophy shelf is loaded with the honors he won.
The Indians selected Crockett in the fourth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. His remarkable ascent to the big leagues has been accomplished with three stops at three classifications in his rookie year. Crockett pitched a total of 24 2/3 innings while at Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley, Class A Lake County and Double-A Akron, posting a combined ERA of 0.36. His WHIP was 0.85. Crockett pitched exclusively in the bullpen and appeared in 21 games. He yielded only five walks for the season while striking out 32. Crockett's arrival at Akron was just two months after he was selected in the Draft.
Crockett is No. 15 on the Indians' Top 20 Prospect list.
Crockett's accomplishments come without any "special" pitch. He isn't overpowering. He isn't flashy. He isn't big and strong. But Crockett is efficient. He is economical with his pitches. Crockett has control and command. And he has a great mound presence. Crockett doesn't fear hitters. He pitches inside, outside, up and down, using the entire plate to keep hitters off balance. Crockett is more than a traditional "finesse" lefty while not being a power pitcher.
This season began with Crockett pitching again where he left off last year, at Double-A Akron. He threw in 15 games and had a 0.57 ERA. Then Crockett was promoted to the Indians, having been summoned on May 16, 2014. After appearing in three games, he was sent down to Triple-A Columbus, where he threw to a 1.04 ERA in six games. Crockett returned to the parent Indians in the first week of June and has remained with the Major League club since.
Crockett throws a sinking fastball at 90-91 mph. The late life and great sink he gets on the fastball induces ground balls and some swings and misses. Crockett has a knack for locating the ball wherever he wants, as he knows where his pitches are going. He has a plan and exhibits consistency in his release point and arm action. The finish Crockett gets on his pitches is superb, consistently repeating his delivery and landing spot. If he gets hit, he doesn't panic. Crockett just goes back to work to contain the inning.
Crockett's second-most dominant pitch is his 80 mph slider. The angle on his slider is deceptive. His slider is very tough on left-handed hitters. Crockett's command and control on both his fastball and his slider along with his ability to consistently miss the barrel of bats is extremely impressive.
My first look at Crockett came when he was pitching in road games at the Major League level. He showed tremendous maturity and poise in those outings. The confidence Crockett exuded made it seem as though he was a savvy, experienced veteran. The ball was difficult for hitters to pick up leaving his hand. Crockett was dependable and consistent.
I believe Crockett's greatest success will come in the role in which he currently pitches. He comes in to face a lefty or two, or starts and finishes an inning. However, that isn't to say Crockett couldn't be a setup reliever or a closer at some point in the future.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less