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A closer look at the headliner of the Britton deal, Dillon Tate

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The Orioles got three minor league pitchers from the New York Yankees in the Zach Britton trade, and right now, starter Dillon Tate is the most noteworthy one.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado was just the beginning, Zach Britton was the latest and there’s probably more to come. With only six days left until the July 31 trade deadline, the Orioles have already acquired a glut of prospects to stock the farm system with. And chief among them is new addition Dillon Tate.

Tate, a 6 foot 2 inch tall, 195 pound right-handed pitcher from Harbor City, California, was born on May 1, 1994. He played his college ball at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the Big West Conference.

Other notable Gaucho alumni include 2002 Cy Young award winner Barry Zito and current Indians rookie starting pitcher Shane Bieber, who is Cleveland’s number two prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. UC Santa Barbara is also the alma mater of former Texas Rangers second baseman Michael Young, per MiLB.com.

In 2013, Tate began his collegiate career as a reliever at the age of 19. But he had very limited exposure that first year. In three innings pitched, Tate allowed six hits, three runs, two walks, one strikeout and one home run. The following year he would take a much-needed step forward.

In 2014, Tate served as part-time closer for the Gauchos. He saw a big uptick in usage, pitching a total of 43 innings. In that time, he had 12 saves, a 1.45 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.55 strikeouts per nine innings.

He became a starting pitcher in his final year at Santa Barbara in 2014, throwing 103 innings over the course of 14 starts. He maintained a high strikeout rate, 9.67 per nine innings, similar to his previous year in the bullpen. He also had a 2.26 ERA and 0.91 WHIP as a starter.

In the 2015 MLB draft, the Texas Rangers selected Tate fourth overall and he signed for $4.2 million, $825,000 less than his slot value, according to MiLB.com. He only had the chance to pitch nine innings the year he was drafted and the following season did not go well.

While pitching for the Rangers’ Single-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League, Tate had a 5.12 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 16 starts with 27 walks and only 55 strikeouts in 65 innings. His prospect star was dimming. Then he was traded, as part of the package sent from Texas to New York for Carlos Beltran.

Tate had a fresh start and things started to turn around for him almost immediately. He had a 3.12 ERA in 17 innings for New York’s Single-A ball club and a 3.86 ERA in 9.1 Arizona Fall League innings. Apparently the Yankees knew something the Rangers didn’t.

As you can see from the following scouting report excerpt, the folks over at MLB Pipeline have deduced at least one reason for why Tate struggled in the minors with Texas but bounced back once he entered the Yankees system.

“Tate resisted incorporating some delivery changes the Rangers wanted in his first full pro season, after which his fastball dipped into the upper 80s and his secondary pitches flattened out. Since New York allowed him to return to his college mechanics after the trade, his four-seam fastball again sits at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98, and he’s incorporated a two-seamer to induce ground balls. Both his hard slider and changeup show signs of becoming plus offerings, though his slider isn’t as sharp as it was at UCSB while his changeup has improved.”

Also listed in the aforementioned scouting report are the pitching grades for Tate’s repertoire. On the 20-80 scale, MLB Pipeline has the following ratings: fastball-60, slider-55, changeup-55, control-50 and overall grade-50.

For perspective, when Tate was traded to Baltimore, he immediately took a spot near the top of the MLB Pipeline Orioles’ prospect rankings at number four. But back to his Yankees tenure.

In 2017, Tate pitched for both high Single-A and Double-A in the Yankees system. He had a 2.81 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 83.1 innings between the two levels. He averaged less than a strikeout per inning but had a 2.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Up until the Orioles-Yankees trade, Tate had a 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 3.00 SO/W ratio in 82.2 innings this season at Double-A.

One factor to consider with Tate is endurance. In the past six years, the most innings he’s pitched is 103, all the way back in 2014 at UC Santa Barbara. As noted in his 2018 Prospect Watch scouting report, Tate has dealt with a variety of injuries the past several years, including problems with his hamstring in 2016, shoulder in 2017 and quadriceps in 2018.

All in all, the Orioles got a promising pitcher who they hope can harness his potential and become a difference maker in the major league rotation one day. He’s at Double-A Bowie with the Baysox at the moment and it’s anyone’s guess as to how soon we’ll see him in Baltimore.