Closers often get the lion’s share of attention in a bullpen. The nicknames, light shows, and signature walkout songs captivate an audience. Add in the fact that their appearance indicates the game is on the line, and nobody can fault the fans for zeroing in on the flamethrowers.
The Orioles had not one, but two closers come out of nowhere this season. Jorge López set the tone early on and Félix Bautista stole the show in the second half.
Fortunately for Baltimore, the closers were not the only pitchers making their mark. An Orioles bullpen that sent away Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser somehow emerged as one of the stronger units in the American League. Cionel Pérez transformed from waiver-wire fodder to a dominant setup man, and Bryan Baker kept getting better and better.
Several pitchers delivered a season worthy of praise, but there is one more reliever that deserves some shine. Dillon Tate finally performed like a player worthy of being selected in the first round of the MLB draft.
The Orioles acquired Tate as the feature piece of a deal that sent All-Star closer Zack (then Zach) Britton to the Yankees. Tate ranked as New York’s ninth best prospect at the time. The Rangers drafted Tate fourth overall in 2015 but sent the righty to the Bronx in the Carlos Beltran deal a year later.
Tate posted a disappointing 5.17 FIP over 16 appearances in 2019. He impressed after a delayed start to 2020, but posted a 4.40 FIP over 62 games in 2021. Tate broke camp in 2022 as a player with something to prove.
The results speak for themselves. Tate pitched to a 3.05 ERA (3.48 FIP) and 0.991 WHIP over 67 games games last season. He struck out 60 batters compared to 16 walks and allowed only six homers in 73.2 innings.
The Orioles utilized Tate in a variety of ways. Brandon Hyde trusted the 28-year-old to record more than three outs when necessary, and Tate even recorded five saves during the season.
Tate kept opponents off balance with a three-pitch mix. He leaned on his sinker 50.4% of the time and the pitch did not fail him. Opponents slugged a minuscule .260 against the hard sinker and managed only seven extra-base hits against the pitch all season.
He split the remainder of his workload between a slider and changeup. Opponents posted a .172 XBA against the slider, and Tate notched a 40.3 whiff rate with the changeup.
Tate may have been overshadowed by Bautista and Pérez, but his performance did not fly completely under the radar. Tate was recently selected to pitch for the United States in the World Baseball Classic, but the recognition did not stop there.
The Orioles chose Tate as their nominee for the Roberto Clemente award. The award is for the player “that best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, sportsmanship, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
Tate should continue to be an asset for the Orioles in 2023. He is arbitration eligible, but his projected $1.5 million salary should not be an issue. Tate led the bullpen with 73.2 innings last season and should continue to be a plus option late in games.
The Orioles bullpen may be due to regress toward the mean next season, but Tate’s stuff should provide some peace of mind. His sinker eliminated power threats all year, and he appears to have found a great balance with the slider and changeup.
Previous 2022 Orioles player reviews: Bruce Zimmermann, Robinson Chirinos, Joey Krehbiel, Tyler Nevin, Nick Vespi/Logan Gillaspie, Spenser Watkins, Rougned Odor, Ryan McKenna, Kyle Bradish, Austin Hays, Keegan Akin, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, Jordan Lyles, Bryan Baker, Tyler Wells, Austin Voth, Jorge Mateo, Dean Kremer, Cionel Pérez, Cedric Mullins, Ramón Urías
Tomorrow: Adley Rutschman