The Indians have a different strategy when it comes to relief pitchers and it has been a long time coming. Rather than overspending on 39 year old closers, they have preferred to fill from below with players that perform at a similar level for a fraction of the cost. The latest in this line was Kyle Crockett, who jumped to the Majors straight from AA today, taking the roster spot of Danny Salazar, who was sent to Columbus.
Crockett was the Indians fourth round pick in 2013 and is the first player from that year’s draft to break into the big leagues. This path directly mirrors that of Cody Allen, who was the second player from the 2011 draft to go pro (after Trevor Bauer). Both players had incredible numbers in their short minor league appearances (Allen struck out 128 in 98 IP, 8 ER, Crockett struck out 49 in 40.1 IP with 2 ER). While Allen did get significantly more playing time in the minors, and did so at the AAA level, Crockett was always considered a better prospect (he was picked 19 rounds earlier than Allen) and has been incredible in Akron this year.
The reason Crockett was in AA and the player chosen to be added to the Indians bullpen was not from Columbus is an interesting one. The Columbus pitching roster is almost completely filled with Major League veterans and, while they have not played poorly (Mike Zagurksi and Kyle Davies each have a 2.08 ERA in 13 IP and Frank Herrmann a 1.23 through 7 IP), they are not the relievers of the future for the Tribe. While they could fill in if an injury makes it necessary, none of them will likely be around in 2015 and beyond. While this Major League appointment may only last until the Indians need another starter in four days, there is no reason to have to deal with waivers when it came time to send the veteran down. This way, Crockett can get some Major League experience and it won’t cost the Indians much in money and nothing in talent.
If Crockett can be anything reminiscent of Allen’s first season, the Indians will have struck gold twice. Allen made his debut in July of 2012 and pitched in 27 games in his rookie year. With a more reliable bullpen, the Indians won’t need as much out of Crockett, but he certainly looks promising. While Crockett is left handed, he is not a specialist and has been used in pivotal situations for the Rubber Ducks all year, earning six saves and finishing 11 games. Injuries have lead to a case where Crockett, Jesus Aguilar and Jose Ramirez are all on the Major League team at the same time and while none are likely to stick around for the entire season, it will give Indians fans a chance to see the team of the future right now.