The Enigma that Is Yankees Prospect Dillon Tate
Though the Yankees’ Dillon Tate is still only 22, the declining velocity on his fastball when combined with a stubborn nature, likely won’t make for a recipe of success.
How could the 4th overall pick in the 2015 draft go from touching 100mph one day, to barely staying within the 90’s the next? That’s the mystery that surrounds Dillon Tate, whom the Yankees acquired on Aug 1 from the Texas Rangers for Carlos Beltran.
After signing with the Rangers for $4.2MM out of the UC Santa Barbara, Tate pitched sparingly through two different levels of Minor League ball (first at Low-A Spokane, and then Single-A Hickory). However in his four appearances out of the bullpen for Hickory in the playoffs, Tate was stellar, as his fastball regularly topped 97mph.
But then his 2016 season began in the South Atlantic League. And after a few good outings, his electric stuff went missing. Gone too were his secondary pitches–as his ERA jumped to 5.12 and opponents hit a robust .311 against him.
Tate did suffer a hamstring injury, which he attributes to some of his struggles, while most of it had to with an unfamiliarity of pitching at a professional level as a starter, which soon led to mechanic issues.
Hence why the Yankees were able to acquire Tate for Beltran, a 39-year-old who can no longer play the field.
Tate’s overall numbers did improve after the trade, in 17.1 relief innings with Single-A Charleston he recorded a 3.12 ERA.
Yet, a particular scout who has been around the Yankee’s farm system for quite some time, and would prefer to remain anonymous, had some particularly demeaning words about Tate’s future.
“I can’t get into too much of why I know this, but if Tate doesn’t change his pre-game and if he doesn’t change how he goes about his work, he’ll never succeed … period,” the scout told NJ Advance Media before a recent Arizona Fall League game.
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The scout also said, “The Yankees didn’t make out on the Beltran trade. The Rangers absolutely thought Tate was going to be a starter when they drafted him, and I could see why. Tate has a great arm. And he’s a nice kid. A great kid.”
While it’s apparent Tate needs to refine his array of pitches, he is currently ranked as the 10th best prospect in the entire Yankees’ farm system. One would think at such a young age, especially for a pitcher, that he’d have plenty of time to carve out his own niche. Well, not according to this scout.
“You can either spin the ball or you can’t,” the scout said. “He doesn’t know how to pitch.”
This guy certainly is a ray of sunshine. Regardless, Tate will get the benefit of the doubt for the foreseeable future until the Yankees are ready to label him a bust. Thus far through two appearances in the Arizona Fall league, Tate has struck out three batters, given up two home runs, and currently holds an ERA around 12.
If Tate can once again regularly find that high 90’s fastball, he will be in the same boat as another young Yankees shooter, Luis Severino. A guy with two pitches, who has a ton of potential but has yet to prove it consistently.
Even if Tate never develops into a front-line starter, solid relief pitching is just as important to a club’s chances of winning ball games. Look at this year’s Postseason. What’s the one thing all the clubs still in contention have in common? Great late-inning arms.
As for Tate, in a recent interview with Baseball America, the young man sounded like a player with an ever-growing chip on his shoulder, which could be just the thing he’ll need to succeed while pitching in New York.
“I’ve been throwing fastball, slider, and changeup,” Tate said. “The one thing I’ve noticed is that just in terms of how I’m going to get my outs, I realized I need to use all my pitches to get my outs and make it a little bit easier to keep batters honest. That’s all part of the learning process for me.
Next: A Pair of Orioles in the Bronx?
“I will be good at whatever I want to be good at,” Tate said. “Regardless of what anybody says, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t have a preference. Pitching is pitching.”