Dillon Tate: Prospect Profile for Rangers' 1st-Round Pick

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJune 8, 2015

Via B/R

Player: Dillon Tate

Position: RHP

DOB: May 1, 1994 (Age: 21)

Height/Weight: 6'2", 200 lbs

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: UC Santa Barbara

Previously Drafted: Not drafted out of high school 



It's rare to find one of the top college pitching prospects who wasn't previously drafted out of high school. Stephen Strasburg is the most famous recent example when he went from undrafted in 2006 to No. 1 overall by Washington in 2009. 

Dillon Tate joins that list after he was taken on Monday. The right-hander excelled in 2015 for UC Santa Barbara's rotation with a 2.26 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 103.1 innings, but the Gauchos originally had him slated to come out of the bullpen. 

Baseball Prospectus' Chris Crawford noted in March after one of Tate's starts how baffling the decision to use him as a reliever looked:

Christopher Crawford @Crawford_MILB

Another great report from a Dillon Tate start. Still amazing to me how close he was to being in the bullpen to start the season.

Tate's efforts in 2015 were rewarded by USA Baseball, as he was one of 21 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award given to the best amateur player in the country. He's come from the shadows as a freshman at college to become one of the top prospects in this class. That speaks volumes about his natural talent and work ethic heading into professional baseball. 

Pick Analysis

In a draft with a lot of quality right-handed college pitchers, Tate stands out because he's got the combination of present stuff and upside to be a difference-maker for his new team. He's an excellent athlete with a sturdy 6'2", 200-pound frame that's ideal for handling big workloads. 

That athleticism is going to help Tate as he moves into pro ball because his fastball command is below average at this point, with ESPN Insider Keith Law noting it's a product of some effort in his delivery:

Tate's command these days is below average, something that is exacerbated by some extraneous movement in his delivery. But he?s a good athlete, and some tweaks and reps should have him throwing more strikes...

He needs reps to improve the changeup and iron out his delivery and command, which is more than a potential top pick normally needs to work on, especially one who's being drafted out of college. 

This was Tate's first year as a starting pitcher in college, so he didn't have a chance to overtax his arm. He only pitched 46.1 innings in 2013-14 prior to this season, though that also helps explain why his command is still erratic. 

Tate does have one of the best pitches of any player in the draft, showing a knockout slider that can get big leaguers out right now. Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com wrote during UCSB's series against Fresno State in April how well Tate's breaking ball was working against elite competition:

Kendall Rogers @KendallRogers

#FresnoState's Taylor Ward is elite and Dillon Tate is blowing him away. Threw a great 84 mph slider, K'ed him on 94 elevated FB. #MLBDraft

As many strides as Tate has taken this year alone, there's still a lot of work to be done. He's got the ideal starting pitcher starter kit with a big, durable frame and power stuff. Being just a one-year starter does put him further behind the development curve than a typical college pitcher, however. 

There will be plenty of growing pains for Tate on his journey to Major League Baseball, but no other starter has a higher ceiling in this class. 

MLB Player Comparison: Chris Archer

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

It's amazing to look where Chris Archer is now and realize there was a divide about whether he could remain a starting pitcher as recently as 2013. Here's what Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks wrote about the right-hander at that time:

Mixed opinions on Archer’s future role, with some falling in love with the promise on the mound, as the 24-year-old has two plus-plus offerings and enough feel for the changeup that it has a chance to play. Others see a dominant reliever in the making, one with the potential to close games at the highest level. 

Archer is certainly making his presence felt as one of the AL's best pitchers in 2015, though it took him a long time to get there. The Cleveland Indians drafted him out of high school in 2006, he didn't debut in the big leagues until 2012 and didn't become a full-time starter until June 2013. 

Tate doesn't have that much time since he's already 21 years old, but given his package of a mid-90s fastball with a knockout slider and developing changeup with a good pitcher frame, he could end up becoming Archer if everything falls into place. 

Projection: No. 2 starter in first-division rotation


MLB ETA: Late 2017


Chances of Signing: 95 percent

Given Tate's climb up draft boards and status as a high first-round pick, there's no chance he doesn't end up in professional baseball before the signing deadline in July. The California native can ask for a full signing bonus, and may get it because of his ceiling, but he will be pitching in the minors before the summer is over. 

The only thing that might cause Tate to return to school is if he takes the Mark Appel route when he returned to Stanford as a senior in 2013 to develop his skills and become the No. 1 overall pick to Houston. It doesn't seem likely but isn't an impossible scenario.