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High Upside Lefty Named Chicago White Sox Opening Day Starter

The Chicago White Sox announced on Monday that left-hander Garrett Crochet will start on Opening Day against the Detroit Tigers on March 28. The announcement comes less than a week after Chicago traded incumbent ace Dylan Cease to the San Diego Padres.

While Crochet doesn’t have a comparable major league track record to Cease, he provides an intriguing arm with great upside. After spending the past few years rehabbing from injuries and in the bullpen, Crochet will finally receive an opportunity to establish himself as a big-league starter.

In fact, Opening Day will mark Crochet’s first career major league start. According to Sarah Langs, Crochet is the ninth pitcher in the last 110 years to make his first career start on Opening Day. Langs also tweeted that Crochet, 24, will be the youngest White Sox Opening Day starter since Chris Sale in 2013.

Chicago White Sox Name Garrett Crochet as Opening Day Starter

The White Sox selected Crochet in the first round of the 2020 MLB draft out of the University of Tennessee. With Chicago fighting for a playoff spot, and Crochet an advanced college arm, the team promoted him straight to the majors. He debuted as an electric 21-year-old throwing 100 mph gas out of the White Sox bullpen.

He remained in the bullpen through the 2021 postseason and shined. In 54 1/3 innings, he put up a 2.82 ERA with a strikeout rate above the league average (28.3 percent). While it was tempting for the team to have the next Josh Hader in their bullpen, the organization has been fairly consistent in saying they see Crochet as a starter.

However, those plans were put on hold, as Crochet underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2022. He returned in May 2023, though shoulder soreness limited him to just 12 2/3 innings. That said, he has pitched well so far this spring. In nine innings, the 24-year-old southpaw has given up zero runs while racking up 12 punchouts and zero walks.

In his major league career, Crochet has dealt with many injuries that have limited him to just 73 career innings. Plus, he hasn’t thrown more than four innings in a game since his college days (May 2019). Though it’s likely the White Sox will monitor his innings, Crochet is almost guaranteed to carry his heaviest workload this year. And with his potential and Chicago’s pitching depth, the Sox will need many good innings out of him.

Despite his lack of experience as a starter, Crochet’s great spring clearly impressed the White Sox brass enough for him to claim the top spot in the team’s beleaguered rotation.

White Sox Rotation Depth

Behind Crochet, Michael Soroka might have the most upside on the big league staff. He has pitched well for the Atlanta Braves in the past, but, like Crochet, has missed a lot of time due to injury. The White Sox acquired him hoping health, a fresh start, and opportunity could revive his career.

Chicago also brought in Erick Fedde and Chris Flexen this offseason. Both pitchers went overseas and had great seasons after struggling in MLB. Flexen impressed with Mariners in 2021 but has not maintained that success since. The Sox need arms and hope Flexen can provide innings as a back-end starter.

On the other hand, 2024 will mark Fedde’s first season back in America. He dominated the KBO last season, winning both the MVP and Cy Young Award equivalents in that league. While he likely won’t be expected to pitch to that level in MLB, Chicago will look for mid-rotation production from the former first-round pick.

The top four starters clearly have their own question marks, and the uncertainty does not stop there. Chicago will run out inexperienced players with various upsides in the fifth and depth spots of the rotation. A breakout season from Crochet won’t turn the White Sox into contenders, but it would help stabilize a young team expected to struggle.


Photo Credit: © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports


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