This lefty could be next great White Sox ace

May 28th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin's White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- was the clear-cut White Sox story from Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Orioles, as the southpaw matched a career high with 11 strikeouts in six innings and extended his scoreless-innings streak to 24 before allowing Adley Rutschman’s two-run homer.

He completed May with a 4-1 record, a 0.93 ERA over five starts and 38 strikeouts to go with five walks over 29 innings. Manager Pedro Grifol’s postgame ire and frustration with the team playing flat instead took the attention and continued as the story for the next 24 hours. But don’t lose sight of what Crochet has accomplished in his first year as a starter, currently leading the American League with 85 strikeouts.

Let’s begin with views from the opposition of Crochet’s high-end work.

“That's [Chris] Sale-esque, back in the White Sox days,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “A left-hander throwing from a funky slot at 98 [mph] with good secondary stuff. I was really, really impressed with him and the way he can command a baseball with all of his pitches … He's really tough to hit.”

“He's got good stuff -- 98 from the left side and a 90 mile an hour cutter, slider,” said Orioles catcher James McCann, who caught Crochet for five scoreless innings as a reliever when they were together with the White Sox. “You can throw him in the same category as Chris Sale and Shane McClanahan, and those lefties that have power stuff and have multiple weapons to get you out.”

Don’t forget Crochet’s White Sox teammates, who are equally impressed.

“Start to start, he's getting better and better and better,” White Sox designated hitter/right fielder Gavin Sheets said. “He's learning how to go deeper into games. He's attacking right off the bat.

“[Sunday] I thought the way he attacked the hitters with 0-1, 0-2 counts over and over and over and over, that's how you go deep into games and that's how you [become] an ace. He's continuing to learn and it's a lot of fun to watch … The guy gets on the mound, and you think there's a chance of a no-hitter every time. Everybody plays their butts off behind him.”

I spoke recently with Crochet about that word, “ace,” with the 24-year-old immediately listing off pitchers such as Sale, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Dylan Cease and Gerrit Cole. They all have overpowering stuff, much like Crochet, but they also have a different presence, an intimidating presence, which Crochet has quickly developed.

“It’s more so the mindset and the mentality,” Crochet said.

Through 12 starts, Crochet already has raced beyond his previous Major League single-season high of 54 1/3 innings, entering June at 63 2/3 innings. In Crochet’s next start, he’ll pass an overall career high of 65 innings set with the University of Tennessee in 2019.

Some speculation has Crochet as a trade target from a 15-40 squad with no untouchables. But with contractual control through 2026 and Crochet just starting to tap into his immense starting potential, he has a great deal of value at the top of a burgeoning young White Sox rotation.

Since his October talk with general manager Chris Getz about the move to the rotation, Crochet, the White Sox top pick in the ’20 Draft, has taken nothing for granted. He worked as diligently to get ready for Spring Training as he did to become the team’s Opening Day starter, as he now does daily to continue mound development.

“I owed it to [director of amateur scouting] Mike Shirley,” Crochet said. “And I owed it to Rick Hahn and for Getz to extend this to me and then for Pedro to be on board with me being the Opening Day starter, I owe it to this team. That’s what it comes down to for me.

“I’ve always carried it with me. When you get an opportunity, you always have to be grateful for it. I also want to prove I belong here, and I want to prove to the people who put me in this position they were right.”