What Garrett Crochet’s Opening Day Start Means for the White Sox

Garrett Crochet will make his first MLB start on Opening Day, which perfectly encapsulates where the White Sox are at with their rotation.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 27, 2024: Garrett Crochet #45 of the Chicago White Sox throws a pitch during the second inning of a spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

After Dylan Cease was dealt to the San Diego Padres in exchange for a package headlined by three of San Diego’s top 10 prospects, the White Sox became set to enter the season with a glaring hole at the top of their rotation.

Following the Cease trade, the team announced that Michael Kopech, who has made 52 starts for the team in the past two of years, would be moving back to the bullpen. Kopech’s lack of command last season and once again this spring led to the decision as he thrived in the bullpen his first full MLB season in 2021.

With the two holdover starters from last season out of the picture, this opened up a massive question with two weeks until the season. Who is going to be in the White Sox rotation and who will start the first game of the year?

The White Sox announced this week that Garrett Crochet, who has yet to start a MLB game, is getting the Opening Day nod.

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Is Garrett Crochet the White Sox Best Starter?

Crochet was a first round draft pick by the White Sox and came in with lofty expectations as he made his MLB debut just a few months later and impressed. He appeared to already be a core piece of the bullpen as he was great in his full season in 2021, but his sights were always set on the possibility of becoming a starter once again.

He will now become the first White Sox player in over 100 years to make his first career start on Opening Day. He has been working toward being a starter all winter despite just throwing 12.2 MLB innings last season while dealing with various injuries throughout the year.

He is still set to only throw four or maybe five innings at most in his first bunch of starts as he builds up his arm to become a full-time starter. However, he has looked exceptional in his Spring Training innings to this point. After seeing his velocity drop a lot last season, Crochet has touched 100 mph on many occasions this spring, while striking out 12 hitters and not walking a single one.

The command improvement is a key note as Crochet could not find his spots last year, likely due to injury in large part. He has been excellent in all facets and now gets the nod to start the year at the top of the rotation as the only pitcher in the rotation mix that has been around in recent years.

Few thought that Crochet would instantly make the rotation at the onset of Spring Training given his lack of innings in recent years, but is now leading the rotation. With Cease and Kopech out of the rotation fold though, there are still significant question marks.

Rest of the Rotation

Signed after winning the KBO equivalent of the MVP award last season, Erick Fedde is essentially a lock to be in the rotation behind Crochet given that he signed a two-year, $15 million deal. He has experienced ups and downs in his spring back in MLB baseball, but can eat innings and has the upside to be a quality piece.

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Behind Fedde is likely to be Mike Soroka, who was one of the best young pitchers in the game five years ago in Atlanta but has dealt with a plethora of injuries in recent years and hasn’t been able to find his groove. He’s one of the many “bounce back” players acquired via trade this winter who will have a shot to regain his form.

Through three starts this spring, Soroka has a 2.00 ERA with 12 strikeouts through nine innings. He’s been able to command the zone to the tune of a 1.11 WHIP and has pitched one additional inning in each start. He looks healthier and more comfortable than he has in years and could be one of the sneakier performers on the roster.

Fedde and Soroka were expected to take the second and third spots behind Cease initially, so this does not change much with Crochet slotting into the first spot. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who starts the first game as that trio is set to be the core of the rotation one way or another.

The last two spots could be still under consideration with a week to go in Spring Training, but there are two candidates that seem like they have the edge of the spots right now.

Chris Flexen is coming off a career-worst season between Seattle and Colorado, as nothing went his way at either stop. However, he has been solid this spring with a 2.00 ERA across nine innings of work. He was a steady arm for the Mariners the two years prior as well with over 300 innings pitched between 2021 and 2022 and an ERA of 3.66 in those two seasons.

With the recent changes, Flexen appears to be on track to start the season in the rotation but could be on a rather short leash given the talent flowing at the upper levels of the minor leagues.

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The last spot is fascinating as one prospect has made clearly made an excellent case to be in the rotation, but is not on the 40-man roster which could alter the situation. Nick Nastrini has been the best starter in camp aside from Crochet and has a real shot to make the team out of camp now.

Prior to the Cease and Kopech changes, it seemed like he was destined to start in Triple-A Charlotte regardless of his performance, but things have changed. Nastrini showed a lot of upside for the Sox down the stretch after being acquired last summer from the Dodgers. That has carried over into an excellent showing this spring.

In terms of his showing on the mound, Nastrini has done enough at 24 years old to merit a spot in this rotation. However, he’s not on the already full 40-man roster and there are additional players that likely need to be added to it as well before the season.

Nastrini should be the fifth starter (assuming Flexen gets the fourth spot) but there are a handful of veteran options as well.

Touki Toussaint made starts for the team last year and is already on the active roster. He as struggled mightily this spring with a total lack of command, but the team is familiar with him from last season. Meanwhile, fellow former top prospect Deivi Garcia has been impressive this spring with just one run allowed in seven appearances but is being used as more of a short spurt option.

There is still a shot that the team opts to dive into the remaining free agent pool and bring in a veteran to round out of the rotation. Michael Lorenzen has been mentioned as a target for the Sox as has a reunion with Mike Clevinger, who pitched for the team last season. Both were solid starters last year and could potentially net a decent return at the deadline with a strong first half.

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Beyond the external veteran options, pitchers such as Brad Keller, Chad Kuhl, and Jake Woodford remain in camp as non-roster invites. They have all been MLB starters previously and are looking for a chance to get back onto an active roster.

The White Sox rotation may not be pretty at the beginning of this season with not a single projected starter logging more than 16 MLB starts last year, but there is things to watch. Whether or not Nastrini makes the rotation initially, he will be with the big league team this season and will likely be joined by Drew Thorpe.

Beyond those two, Jonathan Cannon, Jake Eder, Jairo Iriarte, and other prospects will also have a chance to reach the MLB team later in the year. There are a lot of players worth at least keeping a serious eye on as the year progresses.

For now, I’m sticking with my prediction of the rotation starting as Crochet, Fedde, Soroka, Flexen, and Nastrini.