Top pick Dollander brings smarts, elite arsenal to Rockies

July 12th, 2023

Much went right for right-handed pitcher Chase Dollander at the University of Tennessee in 2023 -- and what didn’t go well could point to professional success as Dollander begins his career with the Rockies.

Dollander entered the season touted as a possible No. 1 overall pick after a dominant 2022, but his ERA rose from 2.39 in ‘22 to 4.75 in ‘23. Still, he was good for 120 strikeouts against 30 walks in 89 innings this past season -- attractive enough for Colorado to draft him ninth overall.

“Even though I struggled a little bit this season, it was a big learning lesson for me, learning how to handle different types of adversity and learning how to talk myself through whatever situations come up,” Dollander said. “That's just one thing that I'm going to have to learn how to do. Now that I've been through that, it's going to be way easier."

Dollander brings a nasty fastball -- 95-97 mph, occasionally hitting 99 -- with the type of carry that can leave hitters swinging beneath the ball. He is especially excited about the development of his changeup, which will come into play more against hitters swinging pure wood bats, and his curveball in the mid-70s provided elite separation.

“There are a lot of different ways you can attack hitters,” Dollander said. “Say you’ve got a lefty, you can attack with the fastball up and the curveball down. Just using my repertoire the way it’s built to be used is going to help me succeed at the next level.”

Draft analysis being the way it is, a fall-off in the effectiveness of Dollander’s slider -- the pitch that created the excitement in 2022 -- was the talk of the spring. But the 21-year-old -- who will likely join other Rockies picks in Scottsdale, Ariz., this weekend to begin a minicamp (for players who pass their physicals) -- expects to return the slider to its wipeout best.

“The only thing I need to do is clean up the mechanics and get it back to where it was the previous year,” Dollander said. “The moment I do that, everything will fall into place and it will be fun to watch.

“I was trying to make it better, trying to do a lot of different things. But at the end of the day, it was me trying to throw too hard at the beginning of the season, which created bad habits.”

How Dollander will go about honing his pitches is especially instructive.

A product of Greenbrier High School (Evans, Ga.), Dollander signed with Georgia Southern and held Tennessee to one run in 5 2/3 innings in his collegiate debut on Feb. 20, 2021. Wanting to play in the intensity and pressure of the Southeastern Conference, he transferred in ‘22 and starred for the Vols.

According to Front Office Sports, Dollander made an innovative investment in his preparation for 2023. Collegiate athletes are allowed to be paid for their name, image and likeness (NIL). Instead of merely looking for money, Dollander picked partners that could help him afford products and technologies that aid physical recovery and nutrition.

Such studiousness could bode well in professional ball, where players have to stay ahead of opponents who -- even in the Minors -- can absorb scouting reports and execute based on the information.

“We can’t be old school, we can’t be new school -- we’re in school,” Rockies senior director of scouting operations Marc Gustafson said. “We’re going to give him every opportunity to learn. And he will be able to handle our analytically-driven technology more than a high school player. You have to learn who the player is and their ability to handle it.

“Chase is a smart kid. He has the experience with dealing with some of the technological tools that Tennessee provided. We’re going to have to continue the course with him, make sure we know what he’s doing and work with him along the journey, hand in hand.”

Dollander believes that by treating his college career as a professional one, he prepared for the successes and difficulties.

“It’s one of the things I developed naturally because of my drive to make it at this level,” Dollander said. “Now that I’m here, that work is not going to stop.”

Post-Draft signings
The Rockies selected 21 players -- 19 from four-year schools, one from a two-year college and one high schooler -- over three days. Also, Gustafson said the team has agreed to terms with two undrafted starting pitchers -- left-hander Braden Carmichael from the University of Oklahoma and right-hander Collin Baumgartner from the University of Kansas.