In less than a month, Orioles pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Sarasota, Florida, to mark the start of spring training. Yet, there remains uncertainty as to whether that will happen as planned with the league’s owners continuing to lock out the players as the two sides plod toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
But as the lockout marches on, so too does Oriole of the Day, The Baltimore Sun’s series examining each member of the 40-man roster’s 2021 season and what’s ahead for them in 2022, assuming the league and the players’ union eventually come together.
The lone piece remaining from 2018′s Zack Britton trade, Dillon Tate has repeatedly shown the potential to do what Britton once did: convert from a well-regarded starting prospect into an effective and trusted late-inning reliever. Like most Orioles, there wasn’t much consistency in Tate’s 2021, but the good stretches offer hope.
2022 Opening Day age: 27
2021 stats: 4.39 ERA, 67 ⅔ innings, 49 strikeouts, 1.241 WHIP, 17.1 K%, 8.0 BB%, 0.4 fWAR
Under team control through: 2025
2021 in review
Baltimore Orioles Insider
Number to know: 287. Batters faced was one of several usage metrics in which Tate led all Orioles relievers. Manager Brandon Hyde went to him frequently, and it led to Tate either leading or tying for the lead in relief innings, appearances, inherited runners and multi-inning outings.
What was good: Tate, the Texas Rangers’ fourth-overall pick in the 2015 draft, was developed as a starter until 2019, and that background seemed to benefit him in 2021. As a reliever, Tate works with a three-pitch mix, and his slider and changeup were both effective secondary offerings. He allowed sub-.200 averages on each pitch, with more than a third of swings against both resulting in a miss.
What wasn’t: Despite finding some success as a late-inning reliever, Tate doesn’t necessarily have the profile of one. Among relievers with at least 60 innings in 2021, Tate had the sixth-lowest strikeout rate, and all five of the pitchers beneath him had significantly lower walk rates and ERAs, according to FanGraphs.
Looking ahead to 2022
Likely 2022 role: Oft-used right-handed reliever.
What’s projected: Tate spent last spring pitching for one of the final spots in Baltimore’s bullpen, but he’ll head into 2022 likely already having one locked up. Both ZiPS and Steamer project Tate’s strikeout rate to marginally increase in 2022, with the systems differing on the direction his walk rate will go.
A step forward: Nearly 60% of Tate’s pitches last year were his sinker, but he didn’t have much success with it. He allowed a .293 and .435 slugging percentage on it, and of the 80 relievers who threw at least 100 sinkers, Tate’s produced the fifth-lowest percentage of whiffs, according to Statcast. The pitch, though, was fairly successful when kept low; when thrown in the lower third of the strike zone, opponents hit .200 with no home runs off Tate’s sinker, compared to a .368 average and a .586 slugging percentage elsewhere in the zone. Keeping his sinker low consistently could help Tate move further up the Orioles’ bullpen ladder.
Three up, three down
This series is ordered based on the WAR, as measured by FanGraphs, each member of Baltimore’s 40-man roster produced in 2021. The past three players featured in the series were Paul Fry, Keegan Akin and Jorge Mateo. The Orioles due up next are DJ Stewart, Tanner Scott and Bruce Zimmermann.