SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities this month, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rangers camp, it was No. 4 prospect Dillon Tate. Tate went from working three innings as a freshman
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities this month, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rangers camp, it was No. 4 prospect Dillon Tate.
Tate went from working three innings as a freshman at UC Santa Barbara in 2013 to closing for the Gauchos in 2014 to starting as a junior and becoming the first pitcher selected (No. 4 overall) in the 2015 Draft. Signed for $4.2 million, he owns a pair of electric pitches, a lively 92-98 mph fastball and a sharp 85-89 mph slider.
MLBPipeline.com: Not only are you the highest-drafted player in UC Santa Barbara history, you're also the highest-drafted player in the history of the Urban Youth Academy (an MLB initiative to promote baseball, softball and education in inner cities). How much influence did the Urban Youth Academy have on your career?
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Tate: After my freshman year, that summer I went to the Urban Youth Academy and started working on my craft a lot. I broke all my mechanics down, threw all my pitches and found out how they came out the best. My pitching coach there was [former big leaguer] Darrell Jackson. So many guys helped me and I did a lot of it on my own. It was like night and day to how I was before, a lot of work to get there. It made a big difference.
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MLBPipeline.com: You had another tremendous experience the next summer in 2014 with the U.S. collegiate team, posting a 0.79 ERA and tying for the team lead with three saves on a staff that included six first-rounders in the 2015 Draft: you, Tyler Jay (Twins), Carson Fulmer (White Sox), James Kaprielian (Yankees), Walker Buehler (Dodgers) and Kyle Funkhouser (Dodgers, did not sign). Who impressed you the most on that staff? How much did you learn from them?
Tate: I remember looking at Team USA late in my freshman year. I realized it was a pretty prestigious thing to go and I made it one of my goals to make that team. On that staff? I'm going to go with Tyler Jay. He threw so many times, maybe four days in a row on point, and it was impressive. They were all impressive. James goes out on the Fourth of July and punches out 12 [in six shutout innings against Chinese Taipei]. Fulmer outstuffed everyone he faced. I was hanging out a lot with the Big West guys, Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza. Those guys were really competitive and both had great changeups. I asked them, "What is starting pitching like? How do you throw your changeup?" I tried to ask all the guys who were around.
MLBPipeline.com: There's a story that UCSB didn't decide to use you as a starter last year until right before the season began. Is that really true?
Tate: My goal was to start. I worked on my body after the summer to get in shape to start. I was set on starting. The coaches said they thought I would be best in the bullpen, and if that's what the team needed, I was fine. The first week, our starting pitcher who was slated to go on Saturday rolled his ankle really badly, so they had me start. I started on Saturday for two weeks and then they pushed me back to Friday [as the No. 1 starter].
MLBPipeline.com: What was it like dealing with all of the Draft buzz last spring? How much of a distraction was that?
Tate: I don't read anything about myself once the season starts. Even right now I'm not reading about myself. I'll read about other guys, wish my friends well, and that motivates me to want to do better. So I didn't read anything. I was so locked in every week on winning. The only thing I was worried about, and going forward it will be the same thing, is just focusing on getting better every time out. After our season ended, I was trying to figure it out. I looked at all the mock drafts. At that point, it was no longer in my control and I was looking to see what people were thinking.
MLBPipeline.com: What are you trying to work on as you enter your first full year as a pro?
Tate: I have lots of things I need to work on. First and foremost, fastball command. No. 2, throwing my offspeed pitches for strikes. I'll work from there, keep it simple. Once I get those two things better, then I'll take the next step and figure out what I need to do from there. The batters will let you know what you need to work on.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.