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Are You For Real? Surprising Pitcher Starts From Garrett Crochet and Jared Jones

Garrett Crochet - Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups, Closers and Saves

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?", a weekly column where we take starting pitchers who had surprisingly good starts over the past week and put them under the microscope to determine whether they're legit or just smoke and mirrors.

There were so many exciting and surprising performances over opening weekend that it was hard to pick just two. This week we'll be breaking down Garrett Crochet's first big league start, and Jared Jones's first big league start. Both pitchers carved up their opponents and have fantasy managers wondering if they are legit.

Roster percentages are taken from Yahoo! and are accurate as of April 1, 2024.

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Garrett Crochet, Chicago White Sox – 48% Rostered

2023 Stats (reliever): 12.2 IP, 3.55 ERA, 5.70 FIP, -1.6 K-BB%

03/28 vs. DET: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Crochet made history on Thursday, becoming just the ninth pitcher since 1920 to make his first career start on Opening Day. It was a good one for Crochet, who mowed down the Detroit Tigers for eight strikeouts in a tough-luck loss. Crochet was a top prospect and a first-round draft pick back in 2020, but his prospect pedigree came under the assumption that Crochet would be a reliever. Can this former late-game fireballer successfully convert into a starter, or is this just a desperation move by the White Sox, bound to fail?

Originally the 11th overall pick in 2020 out of Tennessee, we have to go all the way back to Crochet’s college days to find his last start. At every level of the minors, Crochet was a reliever, and when looking at his repertoire it makes sense why he was in the bullpen. Crochet was primarily a two-pitch pitcher coming up, relying mostly on his fastball and slider, with the occasional show-me changeup mixed in against righties. That was the case for Crochet in this start as well, as he threw either his fastball or slider 87% of the time.

With a fastball like Crochet’s, it’s easy to see why he relies on it so heavily. Crochet averaged 97.3 mph on the gun with his heater in this start, which is actually 1.3 mph harder than he threw it last season. Usually, when a pitcher transitions from the bullpen to the rotation they have to take a little off their fastball so they can last multiple innings, so it’s an encouraging sign to see Crochet improve his fastball velocity as a starter.

Not only did the velocity on Crochet’s fastball improve, but the spin rate improved as well, going from 2,365 RPM last year to 2,516 RPM in this start. This combination of velocity and spin allowed Crochet to go after hitters with his heater in this one, racking up six whiffs with the pitch. Interestingly, Crochet lived in the zone with his fastball compared to past seasons. Here’s a heat map comparison of Crochet’s fastball usage against Detroit and his career fastball usage.


Vs. Detroit:

That’s a lot more zone, and when your fastball sits 97 and has exceptional spin you can afford to challenge hitters with it. Walks have long been a problem for Crochet, so perhaps his newfound comfortability with the zone will allow him to shave off the walks. This could backfire because Crochet’s suspect command might have him missing his spots in the zone and throwing hittable pitches in a batter’s wheelhouse. We didn’t see that on Thursday, but it’s a risk given the profile.

The other pitch Crochet utilized heavily against Detroit was the slider, which he threw 41% of the time. An 84 mph offering, Crochet’s slider is soft relative to his exceptional fastball velocity. It has strong horizontal movement, making the pitch frisbee across the plate and making it effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. Crochet also added spin to his slider, going from 2,227 RPM last season to 2,509 RPM in this start. Altogether, the slider looks like an effective punch-out weapon that should pair nicely with his fastball.

So, the fastball and slider both look great and carved up the Tigers. Does that mean we should crown Crochet AL Cy Young? Not quite, because while his two primary pitches have all the ingredients of effective offerings, Crochet doesn’t have much of an arsenal beyond the fastball and slider. He has thrown a changeup 7.2% of the time over his career, and he developed a cutter in the offseason which he showcased by throwing it seven times in this start.

At 95.7 mph and with 2,530 RPM, there may be some potential in Crochet’s cutter, but he barely incorporated the pitch into this start and earned zero whiffs with it. Perhaps he simply didn’t need the cutter as he was so in control this start, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Crochet runs into trouble on the mound or when either his fastball or slider isn’t working.

There’s a lot to like about what Crochet did on Opening Day, and this early in the season it’s worth taking a shot on strong emergent performers. That being said, there are risks with two-pitch pitchers. Two-pitch pitchers can be volatile from start to start, especially when they have a history of control issues like Crochet. Crochet has never had home run issues, which is a point in his favor, but this writer isn’t completely sold on Crochet yet. It would be nice to see him use the cutter more and more, perhaps getting up to 10-15% usage as the season progresses. For now, he’s still worth the add in 12-team mixed leagues or deeper.


Crochet was dominant in his first big league start, flashing plenty of upside as a high-strikeout starter. He gained spin on his slider and both spin and velocity on his fastball, and if he can sustain this it’ll make the transition from reliever to starter that much smoother. The fastball-slider combo should serve as an effective strikeout pairing. The biggest flaw in Crochet’s game at the moment is the lack of depth in his arsenal, as he’s basically a two-pitch pitcher. He added a cutter this offseason and it’ll be interesting to see how much he uses it going forward. For now, he should be added in 12-team leagues or deeper.


Jared Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates – 42% Rostered

2023 Stats (AAA): 82 IP, 4.72 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 18.6% K-BB%

03/30 @ MIA: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

Jones was electric in his major league debut, fanning 10 Marlins en route to his first career victory. Jones made history as well, as his 22 swinging strikes are the most by a pitcher in his MLB debut (since 2008, the pitch-tracking era). That start has made Jones a hot commodity on waiver wires everywhere, but is he worth the FAB?

Originally a second-round pick by Pittsburgh, Jones gained attention in the minor leagues by racking up the strikeouts across each level. He had a 10.87 K/9 at Triple-A last season and has an 11.2 K/9 combined as a minor leaguer. Those strikeouts came with some warts, as Jones had a 4.31 ERA and 3.9 BB/9 across all minor league levels as well. That didn’t stop the prospect hype, however, as Jones was Pittsburgh’s third-ranked prospect coming into the season and the 59th prospect in all of baseball (per MLB pipeline).

Jones has a relatively shallow arsenal, throwing primarily his fastball and slider and mixing in the occasional curveball and changeup. This was the case for him on Saturday, as Jones threw either his fastball or slider 88% of the time against Miami. The good news is that, while his repertoire is limited, his primary offerings are quite good.

Jones’s fastball looked special in this outing, with the young righty averaging 97.1 mph on the gun with his heater. Even better, Jones had above-average spin and vertical movement with the pitch. He averaged 2,563 RPM with his fastball in this start, which would’ve been the third-highest among starting pitchers last season. This combination of velocity, spin, and movement shapes up to be a plus fastball, and Jones should be able to replicate his minor league strikeout numbers to some degree at the major league level.

In addition to the great measurables, Jones also hit his spots well with the fastball in this outing. Here’s a heatmap breakdown of his fastball usage in this start.

He attacked hitters in the zone and kept the fastball up, which is exactly what we want to see. Control has been an issue for Jones throughout his minor league career, but if he can locate consistently as he did against the Marlins he will flourish.

Jones’s slider was also something to behold, as he earned 10 whiffs on 17 swings for a monster 59% whiff rate in this start. Jones’s slider is a sharp, hard offering with solid horizontal movement. He averaged 87.9 mph with his slider in this start and also had 2,573 RPM with the pitch. Jones's slider looks like a plus offering as well and should be a source of many whiffs for him going forward.

While the stuff looks great for Jones, there are some areas of concern for fantasy managers. First would be his shaky control. Jones was a walk machine in the minor leagues and had a 9.7% walk rate at Triple-A last season. He only issued two walks in this start, but Miami also ranked 26th in walk rate last season with many of the same players. Jones is good enough to go after hitters in the zone and did in this start; we’d need to see him do that all season.

The second area of concern for Jones is his limited arsenal. He relied heavily on the fastball and slider in this start and, much like Garrett Crochet, we’d love to see him develop and incorporate a third pitch more often. His curveball got decent reviews from scouts, but it’s hard to judge its potential effectiveness with such a small sample. Two-pitch pitchers can be volatile, especially when you mix in control issues. Jones looked awesome on the mound, but he’ll go through some growing pains this season as well.


After this start, Jones is far too tempting to leave on the waiver wire. His stuff looks major league ready, even if his control and tertiary pitches aren’t there yet. It’s probably not a good idea to blow a ton of FAB on him; it’s a long season after all. Still, if Jones can be had for 20% or less of one’s FAB budget then go for it. He’s got big upside and he’ll only get better as time goes on.

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