The Yankees sold at the deadline for the first time in nearly 30 years, managing to add the young talent that fans have been craving. Now it’s time to be patient. Dillon Tate, acquired for Carlos Beltran, will require an especially wide berth when it comes to fan expectations because right now he’s a complete mess.
The Rangers drafted Tate fourth overall just last year because he pitched in the 92-98 mph range with two above-average pitches, but they gave up on him just 74 innings later.
He was expected to do great things, but after only pitching nine innings in 2015 due to fatigue, everything fell apart this year. He started off the season by suffering a hamstring injury that sidelined him for three weeks in April, and when he came back from the disabled list nothing was right. He was only hitting 91-92 mph, his mechanics were out of whack, and he looked nothing like the flamethrower the team had drafted the year before.
The Rangers tried to make him right again, but in a telling interview from just last month, Tate explained everything that was going on. They had him working on his delivery to get his very high leg kick to be consistent, they wanted him to keep the ball down more, they had him working on his changeup, and the organization even asked him to introduce a curveball into the mix. He just started his professional career, things weren’t working out, and they had him going every which way at once. Through all of this there’s an understandable chance that he felt overwhelmed:
There’s just a lot of information coming and I need to do a better of sifting through the information and just getting just one piece of information at a time. Work on this and then get that down. Then I’ll a work on this, instead of trying to take it all at one time and master it all. It’s just too tough to do.
With a 5.40 ERA through the trade deadline, the Rangers didn’t see the improvement that they wanted and they made him someone else’s problem. As the Yankees try to repair him, this can go one of two ways: The Rangers gave up on him too soon and the Yankees fix him, or the Rangers knew he was beyond saving and unloaded him before his value dropped any lower. However, it’s important to remember that finding out which one can take a long time.
Keep in mind that Tate hasn’t been a starting pitcher for very long. Between 2013 and 2014, he pitched just 46.1 innings out of the bullpen before throwing 103.1 innings in 2015. It can take years for guys like this to get used to the workload of a full season in the rotation. Fatigue would actually be pretty expected.
In order to help him get back to where he once was, the Yankees plan to pitch him as a reliever for the remainder of the season. Since he’s typically been a reliever, putting him back in the bullpen will give him a chance to get back to basics and stop thinking about so many things:
I think for starters, you’re not thinking about anything, for one. I think that’s for anybody when things are going well.
Working him out of the bullpen is also a great way to get him more consistent work without asking too much of him. He can pitch more often without having to worry about so many other things a starter has to consider. Just as Dellin Betances felt a move to the bullpen allowed him to pitch more often and establish a more consistent and repeatable delivery, Tate feels that consistency is important:
At the end of the day, when you’re up there on the mound, to be successful, consistency is the key. To be consistent, you’ve got to repeat the same thing over and over again.
As a reliever, he can pitch nearly every day, focusing only on repeating his mechanics, and executing his pitches. If he can get things right again, the thought is that the velocity will return. Once he gets to that point he can start working on his changeup or whatever other things the organization wants him to tweak.
It’s easy to see so much young talent enter the system and expect it to show up on day one and look like the future. Sometimes it takes a little longer. It took Betances several years to turn into a useful big league pitcher. Tate has his own problems, but he’s in need of the same patience.
Between Tate, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Gleyber Torres, and the other prospects, there will be successes and disappointments. Maybe he doesn’t turn things around this year, or even next year, but he’s only 22 and the Yankees can afford to take a chance on him. Tate seems like an intelligent guy with a lot of potential who just hit a speed bump very early into his professional career, but hopefully the Yankees can right the ship over time.