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2020 Draft Preview No. 3: Let’s Talk Lefties

Three arms of the sinister variety grace the latest edition of the draft preview series.

St Louis Cardinals Workout Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee

6’6”, 215 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 21st June 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Garrett Crochet is probably the best bet in this draft class for the annual Chris Sale award, given to the lefty who goes supernova his draft spring and jumps up draft boards. Crochet already had the size and the funky delivery, saw his stuff tick up in the fall to Sale-like levels, and now just needs the performance to go along with his new arsenal.

On that last point, it is worth noting that Crochet made his season debut with the Vols yesterday afternoon, striking out six batters in 3.1 innings. The good news is that he pitched well; the bad news is he didn’t make his season debut until March due to an early spring injury, the nature of which I haven’t seen reported anywhere. (Amateur athletics tend to be frustrating in this aspect.)

Last year at this time, Crochet was a solid lefty pitching prospect, one who worked in the low 90s with his fastball and flashed two potentially above-average complementary pitches in his slider and changeup. It was during fall practice that he saw his stuff jump up, and his long-term outlook suddenly changed significantly. He now works in the upper 90s, sitting 96-97 with his fastball, and his secondary pitches are even more devastating playing off that increased velocity. One could prefer either the change or the slider pretty easily; the changeup is probably a little more consistent, but the slider has a higher ceiling, I think. Crochet has even added a curveball, but it tends to blend into the slider, and I’m not sure it’s going to be a part of his longer-term future.

There are obviously plenty of reasons to be excited about Crochet; lefties who can push triple digits are pretty rare even these days, and he has the offspeed weapons to back up his heater. On the other hand, there are some red flags as well, or at least caution flags, and it’s worth noting them. First off, the delivery is both complicated and risky, at least to my eye, and it has limited Crochet’s ability to refine his command. Second, on the same track as that command thing, there is the unavoidable realisation that Crochet, while obviously flashing some of the most remarkable stuff in the draft, has not actually been a particularly good pitcher up to this point. He struggled to a 5.51 ERA his freshman season, and while he pitched much better as sophomore, he still posted an ERA over 4.00 and gave up way more hits than one would expect from a pitcher with his stuff. His command is just not fine enough to excel most days, and he struggles both to consistently throw quality strikes and avoid mistakes over the fat part of the plate.

To be fair, Crochet’s middling results were all before his jump in stuff in the autumn of 2019, so it really remains to be seen how he performs from here on. His stuff is so good he may be able to simply overpower hitters without having especially fine control or command, but it’s not a guarantee, either. Crochet will likely be one of the more interesting follows all spring, and if the results follow the stuff, he could go in the top half of the first round, maybe even higher. If not, well, teams are always willing to take a chance on a pitcher who can touch 100 from the left side, and maybe Crochet ends up more like Shane McClanahan, who went 31st overall to the Rays in 2018 and has taken an enormous step forward in throwing strikes en route to becoming one of Tampa Bay’s more prized pitching prospects.

via Baseball Census:

Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville

6’2”, 210 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 8th July 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

With Detmers, we have another Appalachian-area college lefty, but one who represents the flip side of the coin from Garrett Crochet. Where Crochet is a stuff monster whose results have yet to match his talent, Detmers has solid but unspectacular stuff, and just does nothing but get outs.

Detmers was a well thought of prospect coming out of Illinois as a high schooler in 2017, but Louisville recruits tend to make it to campus, and Detmers’s commitment was strong enough teams didn’t really bother too much with him. Now, three years later, he’s probably the most accomplished left-handed pitcher in this draft class, and depending on how his spring goes he could find himself in top ten consideration. He may not have quite the pyrotechnic upside of Crochet or Asa Lacey, the Texas A&M lefty I’ll cover in another edition of this series, but he’s got strong pitchability and plus command to get him by.

And really, it’s not as if the stuff isn’t good; we’re not talking about Mike Leake coming out of ASU here. Detmers works mostly 91-94 with his fastball, and it features excellent tailing action, not to mention a little deception that causes hitters to be late more often than you might expect. He’s pretty maxed out physically, so you wouldn’t necessarily expect much of a velocity jump at this point, but Detmers throws hard enough to get the job done. The real jewel of his repertoire is an overhand curveball that features tremendous spin and shape, and which he mostly is able to put where he wants it. The changeup is a little straight for my tastes, but he sells it well and keeps the proper speed differentiation, making it plenty deceptive. He doesn’t get a ton of swings and misses on the change, but he does generate plenty of weak, off-balance contact.

Detmers’s arsenal is solid, but it plays up because he’s extremely aggressive on the mound and is able to command all his pitches reasonably well. The curve looks a little prone to hanging to me, but I admit that’s based on fairly limited looks at this point. Watching Detmers go about his business on the mound is a joy, as he works quickly, throws strikes, and never really gives hitters much of a chance to get comfortable against him. He’s perfectly willing and able to double up on offspeed pitches, and he usually seems a step ahead of batters, dictating both the pace and outcome of at-bats. In other words, Reid Detmers is a hell of a pitcher, and if he happened to still be on the board when the Cardinals pick in June (unlikely, I think, unfortunately), he would be a hell of a draft pick as well.

via 2080 Baseball:

Burl Carraway, LHP, Dallas Baptist University

6’0”, 175 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 27th May 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

And now for something completely different. Well, okay, not completely different; Burl Carraway is a left-handed pitcher, and seeing as how we’re covering left-handed pitchers in this column, he’s not completely different. He is, however, at least somewhat different.

Detmers and Crochet are both starters. They are built like starters, they pitch like starters, they appear to be starters long term. Now, it is entirely possible that one or both of them end up in the bullpen somewhere down the line; things just happen sometimes with pitchers, and moving into relief work is never out of the question is a hurler suffers an injury to his body or his arsenal, or if things just never quite come together. Crochet in particular has some relief downside, I think, simply because I see some risk in his delivery and the command is shaky much of the time. Generally speaking, though, both of those guys should project as starters down the line.

In the case of Burl Carraway, though, we have an arm capable of really exciting things, but will almost certainly never make a start at any level, unless it’s serving as an opener for some team tinkering at the margins. Carraway is small (that listed height and weight are both suspect to my eye), has a limited repertoire, and features a delivery that is not well-suited to throwing 80-100 pitches at a time, I don’t believe.

Carraway will represent an interesting litmus test for me come June. Years ago, teams spent first round draft picks on relievers as a matter of course, and very few of those picks ever panned out, it seemed. Gradually, teams moved away from drafting even college closers all that highly. Yes, there were success stories; Huston Street ended up with over 300 saves and a sub-3.00 career ERA after closing for Texas in the mid-2000s. But the college relievers who busted far outnumbered those who hit. I still remember the J. Brent Cox and Casey Weathers eras; do you?

Currently, though, relievers are more important in the game than they’ve ever been, throwing a larger proportion of the innings than ever before and being used in innovative ways that attempt to leverage a team’s best pitchers to win games. For a long time now it has been accepted wisdom that to find a reliever, first you find a starter with an issue. But there are also a lot of college relievers with incredible talent out there; a guy like Collin Poche, coming out of the same Dallas Baptist program as Carraway, made it to the big leagues without ever being considered a starting candidate, and while he wasn’t amazing as a rookie in 2019, he still struck out almost 35% of the hitters he faced and was an above-average pitcher by fielding-independent metrics. The Burdi brothers still have a chance to make some noise. And the more big league teams lean on relievers, the more the pipeline is going to have to provide those relievers.

Enter Burl Carraway into that picture. He will very likely be the first pure reliever drafted in June, simply because his ability to miss bats is so impossible to ignore. In his sophomore season of 2019, Carraway struck out 15.5 batters per nine innings; so far this spring he’s up almost another full strikeout per nine over that number. Carraway racks up his Ks with pure stuff, rather than excellent command; were he to develop 60+ grade command he might never get hit. His fastball ranges from 93-96, and it’s got that extra little hop that makes it seem even faster and harder to hit than it should be. He complements the fastball with a big power curveball that is one of the best breaking balls in this year’s draft class, full stop. He hides the ball very well in his delivery, and he jumps at the hitter, adding further deception.

Carraway might have the best 1-2 punch in college baseball this year, but he’s limited all the same. That 1-2 punch is only a 1-2, and while I always believe small pitchers are underrated due to biased scouting, he lacks much in the way of physicality, leading to concerns about long-term durability. His mechanics don’t help with that, either; there’s a lot of effort to his delivery, and not in the good way. Add it all up, and you have an enticing blend of performance, upside, and risk, with the added dimension of the relief question. I have no idea where Carraway will go come June; he’s the best version of the thing he is available in the draft this year, but it’s an open question just how much teams will be willing to pony up for that thing.