Crockett is rocketing through the system
Three months ago, Kyle Crockett was treading the ball field at the University of Virginia. He was a junior ending his collegiate career with hopes of playing professional baseball. He’d spent the past three years converting holds and saves and on June 7, he converted his dream into a reality.
Fast-forward to August 28.
Crockett is sitting in the Akron Aeros’ clubhouse eating the postgame spread. He may not be the youngest on the team, but he’s undoubtedly one of the most inexperienced. He’s jumped from the short-season level to double-A ball, with a brief stint in low-A in-between. Crockett’s track has been fast and it’s something he hadn’t expected.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I was pretty excited. I was supposed to pitch in Lake County two days back-to-back and I hadn’t thrown, and I didn’t know what was going on, but they told me I was going up to Akron instead of Carolina. It was pretty awesome.”
Crockett was the fourth pick of the Cleveland Indians’ 2013 draft. The lefty started the season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he did not allow an earned run through eight appearances, striking out 16 as he walked just two. Four games with the Lake County Captains followed, where Crockett tossed five innings in four relief appearances, surrendering just one run.
Though his time in A-ball was brief, Crockett absorbed some indispensible knowledge from the experience.
“I enjoyed it a lot, it was a pretty good experience,” he said. “I think they put guys there to get adjusted to the minor league life and I had a great host family. I liked all the guys and coaches there, so it was a great experience.”
Crockett said the biggest difference between college and professional ball is the sense of independence.
“I feel like you’re more on your own,” he explained. “You’re kind of more on your own schedule. You don’t have anybody there to be telling you what you need to be doing the whole time. You get in your own routine and do it every day.”
Life in the minors also requires adjustments on the field. Such adaptations include throwing strikes. Crockett had no issue painting the black, though he said he feels the strike zone is much tighter than that of the collegiate level. Keeping close to the corners is even more vital at the double-A level, something that Crockett has quickly learned.
“If you fall behind, they’re going to know what you’re throwing and they’re going to be able to predict where you’re pitching,” he said. “When you get into fastball counts and they know what’s coming, they’re good enough at this level that they’re going to hit it.”
Akron’s opposing batters didn’t hit much off of Crockett. Through nine games with the Aeros, he didn’t allow a single run as he relinquished seven hits and two walks while striking out nine. The majority of his strikes consisted of fastballs, so he spent his time with Akron focusing on his secondary pitches. Crockett said he primarily threw fastball and sliders during his time with Mahoning Valley and Lake County, meaning his change-up and curveball became his focus.
Crockett added pitches to his arsenal and advancements to his resume. His fast-paced progression through the system stimulated whispers regarding September call-ups reminiscent of Cody Allen’s quick succession in 2012. Crockett said he prefers to keep thoughts of Cleveland in the back of his mind.
“I didn’t even expect to be here yet,” he noted about being in Akron.
Crockett’s next stop is Goodyear, Arizona, where he’ll participate in the Fall Instructional League. He’ll spend a few weeks at home in Newport News, Virginia before his first trip to the Indians’ facilities in Goodyear on Sept. 15.
“I think they want me to get accustomed to the Arizona stadiums,” Crockett said. “I haven’t been out there yet. I’m looking forward to that and working out and trying to gain some weight in the offseason.”
The minor league regular season came to a close on Monday, but it was a rapid one for Kyle Crockett. The 21-year-old leapt from a fourth-round rookie to one of the Akron Aeros’ most reliable late-season relievers. The path to the big leagues looms close, but for now, Crockett is simply seizing the opportunities he’s created for himself.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.
Better to have mediocre teams and a few great prospects than playoff teams with a bunch of LaPortas, Martes, Aubreys and Wes Hodges.
Also I did the research....the last time the Indians did not have a full season team make the playoffs was 1982!