The Detroit Tigers 2020 draft class was quite well received by the industry at the time of the draft. Though anything can happen now that they are playing games, face value in the moment favors the team. With the 2021 Minor League season underway we are finally getting a look at these players in action.
Most notably, first overall pick Spencer Torkelson started slow. After a rough go in major league camp this spring, Torkelson’s first few games remained a bit shaky. Things potentially are turning around with a two hit game on Saturday. On the flip side the Tigers second round pick, catcer Dillon Dingler, is off to a very hot start. It’s a start worth a trip to the video room to see what’s going on.
Besides having one of the best baseball names around, Dingler brings a lot of baseball skills to the table. He’s an athletic catcher, who even played some outfield at Ohio State. Defense is his strength right now. Smooth actions behind the plate, and good pop times to second, add up to being an above average defender with a big arm that might be a plus tool. In terms of strength, at least, it’s plus.
Still, Dingler’s bat is the reason to select him for a trip to the film room. The start to his career has been a very good one, sample sizes acknowledged. Through his first five games he’s shown off his extra base hit ability with two homers and a triple. He’s also hitting .250 with nine strikeouts. So, let’s dive in.
A lot of the good revolves around his homeruns and triple. The first of these came in his second game and it was a second inning home run off of Matt Waldron. Dingler swung through an 88 MPH fastball on 0-0. In the 0-1 count Dingler took a 90 MPH deep to the opposite field, which is impressive. Here’s a look, and be warned the cameraman was fooled. This was an opposite field bomb even though the camera goes to the pull side.
In game number three, Dingler launched a triple. In the seventh inning of the game he came up to bat with one out and runners at the corners against TinCaps reliever Sam Keating. He worked a 3-1 count before going to the opposite field again, barely missing another homerun, and driving in two.
Lastly comes a homerun in his fifth game. Dingler had not been having a good day at the plate, striking out four times and walking once. Those strikeouts will come up again. But in one shining moment in the middle of a West Michigan rally, Dingler put the bad game behind him and went yard on a 3-2 pitch.
Generally it’s thought that the big power will come to the pull side, which is not how it’s worked out for Dingler thus far. Being able to show power to both fields shows a mature approach. It’s good to have, especially from the catcher position. What he does well is go with the pitch. Dingler takes what’s given to him, which bodes well for his bat moving forward.
On the flip side of this coin is nine strikeouts through five games, which adds up to a 37.5 percent strikeout rate. That being said he had one game where he struck out four times, remove that day and the strikeout rate is significantly lower. That’s why small sample sizes are small sample sizes. But it doesn’t hurt to dive into the video and see what it can tell us. The four strikeout game seems like a good place to start.
The first strikeout came in his first at bat. After fighting off a 95 MPH fastball and taking a curveball on the outside corner, Dingler swung through a fastball for strike three.
Dingler’s next strikeout came in his next at bat. He was ahead in the count 3-1 before fouling a fastball away. In the full count he swung through a fastball up in the zone, which may have been out of the zone. It’s also worth noting the running on first was stealing, so that may have influenced things here.
The next strikeout is a little weird. He took a fastball for strike one before swinging through a breaking ball for strike two. Dingler struck out on a pitch he thought was out of the strike zone…and he may have been right.
In the last strikeout, Dingler battled from an 1-2 count to get to 3-2. That battle included fouling one pitch away and taking two pitches that weren’t close. He then struck out on a fastball on the outside corner.
These are four of his nine strikeouts in five games, and they all came in one game. Frankly, there’s nothing all that concerning. He showed he can catch up to velocity and he’s not swinging at pitches that are extremely out of the strike zone. If anything he showed an above average feel for the zone.
Takeaways From The Video Room
Offensively Dingler is more than just extra base hit or strikeout, all or nothing approach. He can get the bat to the ball and he should be able to draw walks consistently with his feel for the zone. Frankly I walked away from this more impressed with his bat than when I started, which is saying something.
The strikeouts are not as concerning as the small sample size makes them seem, but I think they will still be prevalent in his game. That is for a couple reasons. The first is the uppercut in his swing. That will lend itself to some swing and miss. The second is his approach, which is to hunt fastballs in the zone. That will generally bode well for him. However he seemed to struggle to adjust on breaking balls, especially when they were sequenced well. It’s not a matter of if he can hit them, because I’m confident he can, it’s more that he’s going to need time to show he can read spin and adjust off the plan.
Being a good hitting catcher is not easy. Dingler has a real chance to do that. His general tendency is to go to the opposite field, but he can do that with conviction. There is some potentially plus power in his profile, but even if it is only above average he can add some real value to the lineup from a position that doesn’t always require that. His frame and overall athleticism give him a good chance to be a strong defensive performer who can hold up to the workload and still develop into a productive major league hitter.
In the 2020 draft, Dingler was regarded as a good value pick for the Tigers. In the early, early stages of his career he is showing why that just might be true. There are a lot of ways his career can go, but it’s starting off on the right foot. After reviewing the tape, I expect the strikeout number to level out, the power to be a bit streaky, but the bat to play well. More importantly, in Dingler Detroit might have a catching prospect to be excited about once again.