When it comes to minor league pitchers, it’s important to set our expectations correctly. Meet Taylor Dollard.
- Born: February 17, 1999
- B/T: Right/Right
- 6’3″, 195-lbs
- Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
This is not the profile of an ace pitcher, but it is the profile of a good pitcher. Allow me to explain.
Dollard was drafted in the lost year of 2020. His first taste of professional ball was at the A-ball level in 2021, and he did predictably well as a college pitching facing teenagers. HIs walk rate was low, his strikeout rate was high, but his WHIP was only so-so. What gives? Batters hit .265 off him, yielding 40 hits in 38 IP. Thus the WHIP.
He goes to High-A that year, and the walks stay solid, the Ks drop noticeably, and the WHIP goes higher. Yup, 78 hits in those 67 IP with batters hitting .283 against him.
We begin to get the picture of a guy who can keep it around the plate but is hittable as a result.
Then 2022 happens, in Double-A — the first real test — and while the Ks and BBs stay about the same, the WHIP plummets! Yes, only 39 hits given up in those 58 IP, and batters are only hitting .188 against him. Aha! His skills are developing, you say!
Maybe. After BABIPs of .422 and .346 in 2021 (he was unlucky, you might say), it’s only .255 in 2022 (he has been a bit lucky, you might say). So while it’s nice to see him have success on the field, don’t get carried away: his 0.93 ERA has an xFIP of 4.25.
EDIT Dec. 9th, 2002: Now we have his full season, so let’s update the numbers:
His strikeouts went down as the season went on, so his K-BB% rate is not going the way we like to see. The good news is he was steady in his innings, he just kept pitching month after month, and his walk rate was usually excellent. But there is a big difference between a 30%+ strikeout rate and a 25%- rate, and when it drops below 20% it gets ugly.
He striking out 27% of the lefties, and 26% of the righties.
He’s walking 5% of the lefties, and 6% of the righties.
He’s giving up 0.57 hits per IP against lefties, and 0.75 against righties.
So while he’s done well against all hitters this year, he’s done slightly better when facing lefties.
What pitches does Dollard have in his repertoire? He actually throws four different pitches, as seen above in an excerpt from BaseballHQ’s book the Minor League Baseball Analyst. But none of the four is a plus pitch (that would be designated as ++++ or +++++). He has two average pitches: the low-to-mid-90s FB and his low-80s curve.
But scouts say he repeats his delivery well, and his changeup could become an average (or better) pitcher in time. Opinions vary on his slider, some metrics think it has elite aspects, others disagree.
What Dollard basically does is use his FB/SL to get horizontal movement, and he has the plus command to make it work. And it’s enough to keep him a starter, but with no plus pitches, think of him as a #4 SP at best.
EDIT Dec. 9th, 2022:
Until this year, he’s been hittable, and this year he hasn’t partly due to BABIP luck.
He’s got no plus pitches yet.
On the other hand, he’s succeeding at Double-A, and he has improved. Over this last three Double-A starts he’s faced 65 batters, struck out 18 of them, walked 6, and given up 9 hits in 17 IP. For the year he’s thrown 4-to-1 strikeouts to walks. That’s a recipe for success, and he’s doing it at the higher levels.
So expect a bump to Triple-A soon, and probably an adjustment period for Dollard at that new level. Then Triple-A to begin 2023, and if he does well, see him in the majors by June or so.
Just remember his ceiling, and appreciate a pitcher who commands his pitches well in the back of a rotation.
EDIT Dec 9th, 2022: He did not get bumped to Triple-A, and I’m going to guess he won’t start there to being 2023 until he shows a better xFIP at Double-A.