The jokes started for Tigers catching prospect Dillon Dingler almost as soon as he arrived at High A West Michigan. Here he was, Ohio born and raised, a former Ohio State University star turned Tigers second-round Draft pick, in the heart of Michigan.
It was the first question Dingler, the Tiger’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, encountered during his first session with media at West Michigan earlier this week.
“Oh, a ton,” Dingler said of the wisecracks. “I mean, it’s not going away any time soon, but I just kind of laugh. You gotta laugh it off. I enjoy it. I enjoy going back and forth with everybody.”
The more Dingler hits, the more he can laugh, and the more fans in Michigan can envision a future for the lifelong Buckeye in Detroit.
While much of the spotlight in the Tigers’ system has been on top prospect Spencer Torkelson, who went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs on Saturday, Dingler — Detroit’s second pick in that same 2020 MLB Draft — has quietly enjoyed a solid start.
Dingler scored the Whitecaps’ first run of the season Wednesday at Fort Wayne with his first professional home run, an inning after he picked off a runner at second base from behind home plate. One night later, he missed a home run to the same spot by a foot or two, settling for a two-run triple in a decisive five-run seventh inning for a 6-3 Whitecaps win.
Both hits, as well as a single Wednesday night that set up another run, went to right field, a glimpse of the opposite-field power and all-fields approach that sent him climbing draft boards last spring. By contrast, he crushed a home run by pulling it to left in Saturday’s 16-6 victory. He’s batting .200 (5-for-25) with two homers, a triple, five RBIs, two walks and nine strikeouts.
Dingler was an example of the small-sample-size performer that scouting departments across baseball debated, playing in just 13 games before the pandemic scuttled his junior season at Ohio State but batting .340 (17-for-50) with five homers, four doubles, a triple, 14 RBIs and a 1.164 OPS.
Once Dingler fell out of the first round last June, the Tigers pounced with the top pick in the second. They knew the center-fielder-turned-catcher had more work to do behind the plate, but they loved the athleticism. With no Minor League season last year, the Tigers added him to their big league Summer Camp, then put him at the alternate training site, catching advanced pitchers all summer.
Dingler’s education continued after he received an invite to big league camp for Spring Training, this time under former Major League catcher A.J. Hinch. Dingler essentially had two Spring Trainings, shifting over to Minor League camp in late March.
“I would probably say honestly switching over from big league camp to Minor League camp is where I felt the biggest growth,” Dingler said, “because I was able to take what I was learning with those guys over there and then when I started getting more and more reps, when we started games down in Minor League Spring Training, I was able to implement them into the Spring Training games and started to feel really comfortable and started to piece it together.”
So far, that seems to be carrying over. He’ll try to bring that back to Grand Rapids and LMCU Park, where the Whitecaps will hold their first home game since August 2019 when they celebrate their home opener Tuesday night against the Great Lakes Loons.
Tigers celebrate Honorary Bat Girl
The Tigers honored Amanda Hofbauer on Sunday as part of Major League Baseball’s annual Honorary Bat Girl program on Mother’s Day.
Hofbauer was 32 years old with a growing career and a new relationship when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. The relationship became her support system as she fought the disease, and they’re now planning their wedding for later this year.
MLB players will wear pink caps, use pink bats, wear pink wristbands and use other pink equipment on Mother’s Day, a tradition since 2006 to help raise awareness of the fight against breast cancer. Proceeds from bat sales go to Stand Up to Cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.