The next prospect we are taking a look at during the run up to the MLB draft is Dillon Tate. The UC-Santa Barbara junior is arguably the top college arm in the draft, and possibly has the highest potential of any pitcher in the draft. He is listed as 6’2″ and, depending on the source, between 185 and 200 pounds. As for his size, he is in great shape for his age. Rumor has it that he is a bit of a gym rat and what you see of his physique would confirm that.
As for his ability to pitch, it’s important to note that he is new to starting this season. Until this year, he was a fastball/slider bullpen arm. On one hand, that lends itself to him not being over used at a young age, but on the other, it begs the question as to why it took so long for him to get into the rotation?
He clocks a fastball that routinely sits in the mid-90’s (94-96 mph) and a slider that is consistently low-to-mid-80’s (82-84 mph). Both pitches get plus grades. His other two pitches are a change-up that comes in about the speed of his slider and occasionally shows some fade and a passable curveball.
His repertoire is fun to watch. He does not have a lot of moving parts on the mound, but he has a late, low arm slot that delivers a bit of deception, which helps to make his pitches seem a hair faster than they are. His motion does seem higher effort than you would want form a starter though. During the season, he has been averaging a bit more than a strikeout an inning and close to a 4-to-1 K-to-walk ratio.
There have been reports of him possibly being fatigued toward the end of the season. That’s not necessarily a worry, however, as most relief guys turned starters have the issue their first year of starting, especially in college where they are used more often than pro ball. There is a possibility that the fatigue is more worrisome though as it could be the result of the energy he exerts while pitching. As a starter in the majors, it is best to have a free and easy delivery to last 200+ innings every year for a dozen years.
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The biggest question for GM Dave Stewart is whether or not he is willing to pull the trigger on this particular college arm with the first pick, or if one of the hitting prospects has so much upside that he couldn’t justify Tate in that slot. Now, this is the first time in some time that the Diamondbacks had a guy with the pitching credentials of Dave Stewart making this level of a decision. Maybe GM Dave wants to make his mark.
As a caveat, the general rule of thumb in the MLB draft is you do not take a player based on need. Now, once in a while, you see it. The Reds did it with Ryan Wagner and Mike Leake. Both were in the majors almost immediately and the team felt both could help sooner rather than later, even as the developed, because they were closer than they had been in a while. Neither turned into a superstar, but neither had superstar written on them.
When all is said and done, I could see Tate being the pick. I see a guy with the body, the velocity, and the movement. I also see a guy who, at worst, could be a plus bullpen arm at worst. Now, you rarely see a team pick a bullpen arm this early in the draft because they pitch so few innings, but in this case, the Diamondbacks would be taking a top of the rotation potential guy whose risk is mitigated by his awesome fastball/slider combo. If I were to compare him to another player, it would be Tim Lincecum when he came out of Washington. Not so much in delivery, but in pitch repertoire.
Point is, Tate is well-liked in scouting circles. He also isn’t likely to command the entire slot bonus of the first overall pick because, as good as he is and as much potential as he has, he is not on the level of some of the more recent top of the draft pitchers like Dylan Bundy, Mark Appel, and Carlos Rodon. I like him and believe he is very much in the conversation for number 1.
Don’t forget to check the rest of the Diamondback and MLB draft coverage from the Venom Strikes team! See you tomorrow with another 1st pick hopeful.