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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Kyle Crockett

Kyle Crockett's meteoric rise to the majors followed by an impressive rookie campaign hinted at him being a long-term answer for the matchup lefty role in the Indians bullpen. Now a couple years later, his entire future with the organization may be in question. The IBI's Jake Dungan looks at what Crockett's status is for 2017.

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Kyle Crockett, LHP

Throws: Left -- Bats: Left -- Entering his age-25 season -- Contract: Pre-arbitration (Eligible for arbitration in 2019)

2016 In Review: It's easy to say Kyle Crockett had a bad season in 2016. On the surface, you look and see his 5.06 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in 29 appearances with the Tribe last year. Digging a little deeper, however, you will also notice that he has 17 strikeouts in 16 innings of work and a career low FIP at 2.33. Did bad luck and poor defense behind him account for his ballooned numbers? That being said, Crockett has not been nearly as effective as he was during his rookie campaign of 2014 where he went 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 43 appearances. Even in the minors, the left-hander has posted ERA marks as high as 5.97 since then. Crockett will still be in the mix for a bullpen spot in spring training, but his path back to the majors has become far more obstructed by the recent signing of veteran southpaw Boone Logan. Plus, he now has a number of other hurlers of the left-handed variety in camp vying for spots.

Versus Right-handers: From the time he was drafted out of Virginia in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, the Indians pretty much envisioned him becoming the situational left-handed reliever they, at the time, so desperately needed in the bullpen. By May of the following season, he was already in the major leagues and turning heads with his dominance. Even back then, however, the Newport News native was having trouble against right-handed hitters as they batted .283 with an .809 OPS against him that year with five walks and only eight strikeouts. That trend has continued over the next two seasons, although right-handed splits improved somewhat last year to a .261 average and .792 OPS. However, his strikeout-to-walk ratio against righties dropped to a career low 1.25.

Versus Left-handers: Between of his low arm slot and funky mechanics, it's little wonder why Crockett can be so effective against his fellow southpaws. And so far, the numbers have concurred as the 25-year-old has a career .234 opposing average and .599 opposing OPS against lefties over his three big league seasons with a strikeout-to-walk ratio north of four. After the respective .206 and .545 average and OPS marks that left-handed hitters put up against Crockett in his rookie season, though, they have inflated a bit above .250 and .600 over the last two years. Still, while left-handers may get in a few more hits off him than they used to, he's still striking them out a fair amount as well with 12 punchouts versus just three walks last year.

Pitch Mix: While calling him a soft-tossing lefty isn't a perfect classification, Crockett doesn't throw hard, particularly by today's bullpen standards as his fastball sits in the upper 80s. It's his aforementioned arm slot and all the moving parts of his delivery that make him effective. After ditching his two-seam fastball last season, the Virginia native now features three offerings starting with his primary four-seam fastball, which was rated a career best 2.1 runs above average by PITCHf/x last year, and then mixing it up with his slider and changeup. Maybe it was focusing on his four-seamer exclusively that helped increase it's value. On the other side, though, his breaking pitches both dipped into the negative scale after being plus pitches for the first two years of his career.

Fantasy Impact: Obviously Crockett has to make the team first before he can have any impact and right now, that appears to be a long shot. Even if he does make the roster, though, his pitching time will likely be sporadic with Andrew Miller and Boone Logan doing most of the heavy-lifting from the left side of the mound. Fangraphs sees a similar fate in 2017 with only 10 appearances expected by both Steamer and Depth Charts. In those games, Crockett is projected to have a 1-0 record with an improved 3.84 ERA, but they also anticipate his strikeout rate to decline and his FIP to jump up to 4.09. Whatever way you look at it, though, 10 outings is little time to make an impact, positive or negative, as his projected 0.0 WAR shows.

Summary: At the end of spring training, the Indians will find themselves in a bit of a dilemma with Crockett if he is not one of the 25 guys heading to Texas for opening day as he has no minor league options remaining. They may try to pass him through waivers back to Columbus to keep him as a depth option, but at his young age and with the flashes of dominance he's shown, there's no guarantee another team wouldn't scoop him up off the wire. In short, Crockett's career with the Indians may be at a crossroads this spring and it could very easily come to an end by the time April rolls around. The Indians surely would like to try and keep him around if they can given what little reliable left-handed bullpen depth they have, but the end of spring training is not an easy time to pass players through waivers as teams with unexpected injuries are looking for quick fixes to fill spots. If he does make it through, though, expect him to return to Triple-A and be first on the call-up list if one of Miller or Logan get hurt.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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