On March 26, it was announced that eighteen year old lefty Brady Aiken, of the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida, had undergone Tommy John surgery. In a self-penned article for Derek Jeter’s “The Players’ Tribune” website, Aiken wrote:
"“I had Tommy John surgery to fix my left arm. I’m obviously extremely disappointed. I wanted to let my pitching speak for itself, but now there are going to be new distractions. For that reason, I wanted to be the one to tell people what’s happened and make this a fresh start.”"
Few Astros fans will still feel too aggrieved at the events of June 2014 with the team now sitting rather pretty at the top of the American League standings and the pitching staff playing a huge role in the so-far-so-incredible turnaround from last season. Indeed, the compensatory second-overall pick that the Astros received after the team spectacularly (at the time at least) failed to sign either Aiken or Jacob Nix, will further silent any dissenting voices or outstanding angst at the 2014 draft.
The question of who should be the Astros draft targets in 2015 centers on that second overall pick, a pick that has yielded some fine talent historically, currently headlined by 2013 2nd pick Kris Bryant but also including Dustin Ackley, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Moustakas and Justin Verlander. The last time the Astros picked second overall was 1969 and the team picked up right hander J.R. Richard, who spent his whole career in Houston before it was ended prematurely when the 6’8″ Richard suffered a stroke.
One option the Astros have with the second overall is powerful twenty-one year old right handed pitcher Dillon Tate, currently enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a 2014 Preseason All-American. UCSB head coach, Andrew Checketts, quoted in the previously linked article, said:
"“Dillon was a rock for us at the back end of the bullpen last year, and being named to this team is indicative of the level of success he had…Even though he set the bar high for himself, with an offseason of hard work and a stint with the US National Team, we expect him to again be a major contributor to our pitching staff.”"
College team mates speak very highly of Tate. Outfielder Luke Swenson, quoted in a D1Baseball.com article said:
"“The thing that sets Dillon apart is his competitiveness…He always wants to win. He doesn’t worry about the draft or how hard he’s throwing, every Friday night he goes out there he competes to help his team win.”"
Tate’s statistics also speak to a young man improving his game with every opportunity. As a sophomore, he went 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA and had almost as many saves as walks (12-17). He also hit .205. Playing for the US Collegiate National Team, he recorded a 0.79 ERA in eleven appearances.
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In April, Tate was added to the Golden Spike Award watch list, sitting with an ERA of 1.34 with two complete games to his name, despite what PresidioSports.com described as a “deceiving 4-3 record”. His collegiate stats are available here and show a player that continued to develop even from the mid-point of his junior season in Santa Barbara.
Tate, arguably the top college arm in the draft, has serious speed, with a fastball that has hit 97 mph and also possesses a very useful slider that sits in the 85 mph range. He has been less-inclined to use his changeup, which has been inconsistent when deployed.
The Astros may look at the 103.1 innings pitched in the 2014-2015 season with some wariness, but that is a career high and also partly attributable to his transformation from a closer into a starter. It doesn’t seem to be the sort of workload that the organization should be overly concerned about, even with the bitter taste of the 2014 draft and the concerns over Brady Aiken’s left UCL fresh in the mouth. Tate’s action certainly needs some refining to cut down on potential longer-term wear and tear concerns, though.
Aiken will likely re-appear in the MLB draft in the very near future, though certainly not in his previous slot of the first overall. For the Astros, however, selecting Dillon Tate could be one way to put the Aiken affair well and truly behind us.
Watch some footage of Tate, via MLB.com, here.
Keep up with the rest of the series below.
Astros Draft Prospect: Daz Cameron
Astros Draft Prospect: Alex Bregman
Astros Draft Prospect: Carson Fulmer
CTH Mock Draft (First Five Picks)
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