Rockies taking it slow with Dollander

September 8th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Right-handed pitcher , the Rockies’ top pick in this summer’s MLB Draft out of the University of Tennessee, promises to be worth the wait.

Several members of the Draft class are at Minor League affiliates.

Seventh-round righty -- and Dollander’s Tennessee teammate -- Seth Halvorsen is already at Double-A Hartford. Playing at Single-A Fresno are second-round lefty Sean Sullivan, Competitive Balance B multi-position player Cole Carrigg, fourth-round lefty pitcher Isaiah Coupet, fifth-round third baseman Kyle Karros, sixth-round righty reliever Cole Denton and 17th-round first baseman Aidan Longwell.

Where is Dollander, who signed for $5,716,900?

Friday, Dollander -- the No. 60 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, which ranks him third in the Rockies system -- will throw his fourth bullpen session at Salt River Fields, with live batting practice coming soon and some outings in the Arizona Instructional League, which runs from Sept. 18-Oct. 7.

On Tuesday, Dollander threw a bullpen session during the day and by night was in the stands at Chase Field in Phoenix to watch the Rockies’ 3-2 victory over the D-backs. Out of sight on affiliated rosters, Dollander, 21, is at the front of the Rockies’ minds. His progression is the result of honest conversations between Rockies club officials and Dollander.

“I'm actually ramping up to throw a few innings in instructs -- the plan for me right now is to do that and call it a year,” said Dollander, who will visit the Rockies and meet with local media next week at Coors Field. “I threw a lot in college. I know a lot of the other Draft guys are throwing at affiliates and stuff like that, but the Rockies wanted me to stay here, stay under close vision, get back to my normal self and be able to dominate next year.

“I took a couple of weeks off after the end of the season. Probably shouldn't have done that. But I really, really needed it. It was not only physically draining, but it's mentally draining as well.”

Dollander entered the 2023 season as a candidate for the top pick. He was not as dominant as he was the previous year, so he fell to the Rockies at No. 9.

However, it was a valuable learning experience.

“There were a lot of people that told me I made some unnecessary adjustments,” he said. “But in reality, I didn't make those adjustments on purpose. It just kind of happened when I was chasing velocity early on in the year, and the bad habits started.

“I'm just trying to get back to my sophomore version of myself, and build the ground from there, just keep going up.”

Former Major League pitcher Dave Burba, who is supervising Rockies pitchers at the Scottsdale complex, has seen the beginning of Dollander’s rise.

“He’s starting to let it go, and you can see the electricity behind it,” Burba said. “I’m excited for him.”

How teams handle their top Draft picks varies by player and organization.

LSU righty Paul Skenes, whom the Pirates took with the No. 1 overall pick, made three appearances across three levels (Rookie, Single-A, Double-A) for 6 2/3 total innings before Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said on Tuesday that Skenes had “checked all the boxes” necessary for his Draft summer and ended his season.

Dollander said he believes he is good for 10-15 innings in instructional ball, but he will wait for the Rockies to set his limit and prepare for 2024.

“It wasn't outside pressure,” he said. “It was just myself: ‘I'm better than this. I can do better than this. Why am I not doing this?’ After a while, I realized it was time to turn on a different switch and just go out there and be Chase Dollander. If I get back to that version of me, I’m going to be good to go. Let’s just say that.”