Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#16 Prospect - Zack Dodson

My #16 Pirates prospect, Zack Dodson was part of the same draft class the added my #19 prospect Zach Von Rosenberg to the Pirates system.  In 2009, the Pirates selected Dodson two rounds ahead of Von Rosenberg, nabbing the lefty pitcher with the 115th overall pick.  The Pirates convinced Dodson to sign rather than attend Baylor with a 600k dollar signing bonus.  

Dodson was not ranked in Baseball America's top 200 draft prospects, but featured a fastball that touched the low 90's and a solid curveball, an intriguing package, especially from the left-side.  Dodson, who stands at 6'2 inches, lacks elite projectability, but at only 180 lbs (according to fangraphs; Pirates Prospects has him at 180 lbs), he does have some room to add muscle.

Dodson did not pitch in 2009, as he signed approximately a week before the August deadline.  In 2010, Dodson started out at State College, and posted a 4.35 ERA and 3.89 FIP.  His peripheral ratios were ugly, with a 6.40K/9 and a 4.21 BB/9.  In addition, Dodson put up a below-average .91 GO/AO ratio.  On the plus side, Dodson kept the ball in the park effectively with a .31 HR/9, which was probably a combination of skill and luck. All in all, Dodson did well to hold his own as a 19 year old at State College and his efforts earned him a ranking as the 17th best prospect in the New York-Penn League.

Going into the 2011 season, John Sickels ranked Dodson as the Pirates 17th best prospect, giving him a C grade.  He had this to say about Dodson, "Another young but raw pitcher with good projection."

In 2011, Dodson started the year at Low-A West Virgina.  The injury bug bit him as he suffered a broken hand, but when healthy he pitched 66.2 very good innings for the Power.  In those innings, Dodson pitched his way to a 2.57 ERA. Even without the slight luck he had in regards to BABIP, Dodson posted a very solid 3.26 FIP.  Perhaps more importantly, Dodson improved his peripheral ratios substantially.  His K/9 rate stayed virtually the same, at 6.21, but he cut his walk rate nearly in half, posting a  2.03 BB/9 ratio.  Dodson also significantly improved his groundball rate, finishing the year with a 1.44 GO/AO ratio in his time with the Power. 

Dodson's stuff also slowly improved.  According to Wilbur over at Pirates Prospects, Dodson sat in the low 90's and touched 93. I saw him pitch two times at Appalachian Power Park and saw similar numbers, even seeing him touch 94 a few times, which is plenty of velocity for a left hander.  That is especially true when it comes when that left hander can throw an above-average to plus curveball like Dodson can.  When I saw it, Dodson's curveball had very good depth and very good rotation.  Dodson also threw it with solid consistency, as it always stayed tight and rarely opened up on him.  It certainly projects as a plus, 60 or 65 pitch.  Dodson also came out of high school with a decent feel for a changeup. I'm unclear of exactly how much it has progressed since then, but he threw a few in the two starts I saw him pitch, and they flashed above-average, with a chance to be a plus offering if Dodson can really progress with his changeup. 

Overall, Dodson already has exciting present stuff, highlighted by two pitches - his fastball and curveball - that are currently above-average.  If Dodson adds a bit more velocity, both pitches could become plus in a finished product.  In addition, Dodson's changeup shows promise.  It could also end up plus, although above-average is more likely.  Add in improved control and command that should only get better and a feel for pitcher that greatly impressed me, and Dodson optimistically projects as a #2-3 starter.  Even if Dodson doesn't improve his arsenal substantially over the next few years, his excellent pitchability gives him a solid chance to be a useful back-end rotation option when he makes it to the pros.  All that combined makes Dodson my #16 Pirates prospect.