They say a prospect has “helium” in the scouting world when his stock skyrockets. There are any number of ways a prospect can earn the tag. Maybe he matures physically or begins producing at a mind-boggling pace. Maybe it’s a combination of things. Whatever the reason, some prospects practically become household names in the scouting circuit over night — like Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet.
It’s hard to imagine another South Mississippian who has had a more rapid rise to prominence in the last calendar year than the OSHS left-hander.
On Tuesday, just under a month after being selected in the 34th round of the MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, the Greyhound southpaw announced his commitment to Tennessee on Twitter.
“Blessed to say I’m going to begin my college career as a Volunteer!” Crochet posted on the social media website. “Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point. #GoVols.”
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Texas was Crochet’s other finalist, he said Tuesday. Crochet felt honored to be drafted but said going to college and getting an education was always the priority.
“I felt really comfortable with the new Tennessee coaching staff,” Crochet said. “They got a new pitching coach who I think is going to be a real game-changer.
“I feel like I could go in and really help turn the program around.”
Crochet said he hasn’t been promised any specific role on Tony Vitello’s first team, but expects to compete for innings as a freshman.
Fast climb to Rocky Top
Looking back 12 months, maybe Tuesday’s Independence Day announcement would come as a surprise. But after watching Crochet constantly turn heads during his senior season, the fact he’s SEC-bound shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.
OSHS coach Brian Rea remembers almost to the day when colleges began to buy into Crochet’s stock.
Jones County Junior College saw Crochet throw last summer and called Rea to inquire about his recruitment.
“We like him,” JCJC asked. “Is anyone else on him?”
Not yet, Rea replied. Not long after the conversation, Crochet committed and ultimately signed with the defending NJCAA national champions. As his senior season progressed, the Sun Herald All-South Mississippi selection dominated, finishing with a 6-4 record and 1.48 ERA in 14 appearances.
“Jones saw it before anybody,” Rea said. “They identified a good frame and live arm and jumped on him quick. Throughout the fall and entering spring camp, you just saw Garrett continue to improve, gain velocity, get bigger and stronger.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy make that big of a jump.”
More colleges began to take notice and, apparently, so did several professional teams, like the Milwaukee Brewers, parent team to the Biloxi Shuckers.
Around the same time Crochet was lighting up radar guns in a Houston tournament, he was selected by the Brewers.
Crochet had heard rumblings he might be drafted, but he was shocked when it actually happened.
“I’m trying to keep my cool,” he told the Sun Herald after getting the call from Milwaukee.
Playing professionally has always been Crochet’s dream. Although the opportunity was now there, the decision wasn’t that cut and dry. The Ocean Springs native was simultaneously heating up on the recruiting trail after his “breakout” performance in Houston, where he only pitched to three batters but still struck out the side.
“He was sitting 91 (mph) with the right people there,” Rea. “It’s a prime example of you never know who is in the stands; although, I think he knew. It’s probably not hard to see all the radar guns popping up when you’re hitting 91.”
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Crochet visited both Tennessee and Texas before ultimately choosing the Vols.
“When they got in the game on Garrett, it was a fresh coaching staff, which is always exciting,” Rea said of Vitello, who was previously an assistant at Missouri, TCU and Arkansas. “They’re looking to bring in their people and players. To be a part of something that’s new, I think that really intrigued Garrett. They also made a good connection with the coaching staff.
“Hey, it’s Tennessee. They haven’t been off the charts in the college baseball world but you have to believe you can do it there. They have had good years and players come through there. You know they have the assets.”
As Rea said, with any luck being selected in by the Brewers in 2017 hopefully won’t be the last time Crochet hears his name called by a professional team.
“We’re tickled to death for him,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for him to go and get his college education, and God willing, he’ll stay healthy and get another opportunity at the draft.”
Crochet is now listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds and in addition to throwing a low-90s fastball, he mixes in an 80-82 mph slider with a 12-6 curveball that’s 76-80 as his out pitch.
There’s no definite timetable for Crochet’s arrival in Knoxville, Tennessee. He only recently applied to the school, so he has to officially get accepted before he can report.