Happy Kyle Crockett Day(s).
At 7 p.m., tonight, Major League Baseball will kick off its three-day, 40-round draft. As I wrote in today's paper, Virginia closer Kyle Crockett is expected to get an early name call because of his talent and cool, collected nature on the mound.
Where exactly will Crockett go? He's ranked as prospect No. 103 according to Baseball America, which, if you do the math, that's in the fourth round range. However, there's a chance the lefty could go even higher.
CBS19's Damon Dillman asked Baseball America editor John Manuel if Crockett could sneak into the second round.
"Yes, maybe into the first round even," Manuel responded. "Wouldn't shock me."
That would translate into big money opportunities.
"I love college baseball," Gary Crockett, Kyle's father, told me yesterday. "To me, it’s the best sport there is. I haven’t discussed it much with him, but if it was left up to Dad, he would stay right here in Virginia and play another year. That’s the way I feel about it.
“I think baseball at the college level, kids are playing for the right reasons. The game is passionate, it’s just second-to-none to me."
Kyle Crockett, himself, has also downplayed the whole draft thing, focusing his attention on this weekend's Super Regional instead — and rightfully so.
The deadline for signing a drafted player is July 12.
-Kyle Crockett is 12-3 with a 1.98 ERA in his UVa career. All 12 of his saves have come this season. His career strikeout-to-walk ratio is 157-to-27.
Cavalier coach Brian O'Connor has called him the best closer he's had in his 10 years in Charlottesville.
At a skinny 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Crockett isn't the most intimidating figure on a mound. The domination is in his numbers — and is derived from a three-quarters arm angle that is deceiving for hitters.
Was the arm angle a UVa-created advantage?
"That’s Mom and Dad," said Cavalier pitching coach Karl Kuhn. "He came out of the womb with that.”
Said Kyle Crockett: “That’s just natural for me. I’ve always been throwing like that.”
Gary Crockett provided a little more insight.
"I think Karl has to be somewhat responsible for a little bit of his arm angle," he said. "He changed it a little bit. He’s changed it some, but not a lot.
"I used to try to teach him to come over the top, but he’s gotten more successful as he’s dropped it down a little bit.”
-Crockett's fastball hits 94, his change-up can make batters buckle, but it's his slider that has turned into a headline-grabber.
With late bite, Crockett's slider tops at 82.
And the scary thing is, it's not perfected yet.
“Actually, I didn’t have a slider until I got here," Crockett said. "My freshman year, I developed it and then this year I actually changed the grip on it midway through the season. I think it’s been helping me out a lot more.”
Added O'Connor: "I got to credit Coach Kuhn with all of that. It’s work every day and over the years that that slider has really developed over the years.
"It’s certainly the best that Kyle has had it in his career here. It’s just something that takes time. Obviously, from his arm angle, the low three-quarters kind of arm angle that he throws from, it’s a great pitch from him because it’s really difficult to pick up the difference between that and his fastball.
“I think that pitch has certainly been the difference for him.”