Here’s the huge lesson Detroit Tigers prospect Dillon Dingler learned last season

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Full count. Two on.

Detroit Tigers prospect Dillon Dingler was guessing fastball.

And he guessed right.

Facing right-hander Blake Holub, the Tigers’ 2021 15th-round pick, Dingler crushed a fastball over the left-field fence on Saturday in a minicamp scrimmage at Joker Marchant Stadium. The ball landed on the berm and bounced to the “Welcome to TigerTown USA” sign, as Dingler jogged around the bases.

“I was anticipating a 3-2 fastball,” Dingler said after his three-run homer. “I was able to finally be on time for one and get it out front, and I put a good swing on it.”

That home run, on its own, was a thing of beauty.

But it’s also a reflection of the work he’s put in, behind the scenes, starting at 7 a.m. every day in the batting cages at TigerTown.

“We’ve been working on it every morning at 7 a.m.,” he said. “We’re going in, getting early stuff in the cages and it’s just good to really see it all come together.”

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Dingler is the fourth-best prospect in the Tigers organization, according to MLB Pipeline.

After he was taken in the second round of the 2020 draft, he spent the summer at Detroit’s alternate training site in Toledo.

A year ago, Dingler burst onto the scene, hitting .287 with eight home runs in 32 games at High-A West Michigan.

He earned a quick promotion.

But he struggled at Double-A Erie, hitting .202 with four homers in 50 games. His season was hampered by a fractured thumb, and he played just three games in August.

When he returned to action, he couldn’t get into a groove, with 21 strikeouts in 54 September at-bats, which was concerning.

But it seems logical to think the struggles stemmed from the time he lost because of his thumb.

More than that, he was still learning how to adjust to a full season.

“I kind of learned a lot about myself, honestly, through a full season,” he said. “You learn about how your body works, learn about what you need, whether it be sleep, more workouts, just a lot of things that go into it.”

And then, there was the mental side of things.

The daily grind.

And the mindset.

“It’s the mindset you take into games, into series,” he said. “Whether or not to worry about something, like not trying to worry too much about little things, you know.”

That might sound like a small thing.

But it was huge for him.

“When you roll over a certain amount of times, you’re not trying to fix your whole swing,” he said. “You are catching the ball too far out in front, right? So it’s all about the little things that I try to keep in my mind that are not much swing fixes, just mentality fixes.”

Because there was a time when he started tweaking things too fast.

He started changing his swing when the problem was actually his approach and mindset and timing.

“You think it’s all about your swing and it’s not,” he said. “It’s, ,You’re not on time. You’re not letting the ball travel. You’re catching the ball out in front. You’re not letting it travel too deep,’ so kind of stuff like that.”

Dingler is a tremendous athlete, and he is getting back into the groove of blocking pitches.

“Yeah, not quite there yet,” he said. “It’s just trying to throw your body in front of everything. Just trying to keep the ball out front, It’s getting back into it, flipping your legs down. It’s gonna take some time take some, some reps. We’ll get used to it. We got plenty of games to work on everything.”

Dingler turns 24 in September, and this is a crucial year for him.

Because he is no longer one of the young guys. He’s not yet old. The average age of aDouble-A player is 23.8, according to Fangraphs. But he needs to prove he can produce in Erie before he jumps to Triple-A Toledo.

“I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now — both offensively and defensively,” he said. “Trying to fine tune some different stuff. Just try and take it one day at a time.”

One swing at a time.

And when that swing puts the ball over the fence and on the berm, all the better.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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