The Rays are lauded for their pitching depth, both at the major league level and in the minor leagues. Shane Dyer hasn’t even been recognized as being a part of that. In a Rays organization laden with upper-echelon pitching prospects, can Shane Dyer surprise people and be part of the future in St. Petersburg?
Dyer was a 6th round pick by the Rays in 2008 out of South Mountain Community College in Phoenix Arizona. Dyer had previously been a 24th round pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2006. Dyer was advanced enough that the Rays started him at Short Season-A Hudson Valley, and he pitched decently in his age 20 season at the level, going 3-4 with a 3.68 ERA, 46 strikeouts (7.1 K/9), 19 walks (2.9 BB/9), and 4 homers allowed (0.6 HR/9), amounting to a 3.59 FIP, in 14 starts and 58.2 IP. The next season, Dyer was absolutely horrendous on the surface, going just 1-10 with a 5.10 ERA in 16 starts, 9 relief appearances, and 101.1 IP for the Low-A Bowling Hot Rods, but he posted a 6.8 K/9, a 2.8 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9, leading to an improved 3.45 FIP. Dyer posted a nice 2.34 groundout to airout ratio in 2009 for Bowling Green, but the problem for him was that he allowed a .350 BAbip. Based on his peripherals, Dyer looked primed for breakout 2010. And that’s exactly what he did.
Dyer started his age 22 season in 2010 back at Bowling Green, but this time, he dominated, going just 2-3 but with a 1.71 ERA, a 7.2 K/9, a 1.9 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9, amounting to a great 2.60 FIP, in 7 starts, 2 of which were complete games and 1 of which was a shutout. Dyer was then promoted to High-A Charlotte, and he continued to pitch well, going 5-8 with a 3.17 ERA, a 7.2 K/9, a 2.3 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9 in 16 starts, 1 of which was another complete game, 1 relief appearance, and 93.2 IP. Dyer was so good that the Rays brought him up to Double-A Montgomery for his age 23 season in 2011, and he was actually below the league average age of just over 24 years old. Dyer was able to be an innings-eater for the Biscuits, but nothing more as he went 7-11 with a 4.47 ERA, just a 3.8 K/9, a 2.6 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9, amounting to a 4.38 FIP, in 28 starts and 157 IP. In those 157 innings, he allowed 191 hits, tied for most in the Southern League. His groundout to airout ratio also deteriorated significantly from its previous levels, all the way down to 1.41. Simply put, Dyer looked like all but an organizational player at best. But interestingly, the Rays decided to send Dyer to the Arizona Fall League, a perk usually reserved for players who teams feel has at least moderate potential to contribute something at the big league level.
In the AFL, Dyer pitched decently, going 2-1 with a 4.38 ERA, but striking out just 10 compared to 9 walks and allowing 2 home runs in 6 starts and 24.2 IP. But sometimes the stats don’t tell the whole story. Dyer’s time in the AFL gave us access to some Pitch F/X data on Dyer that will allow us to get a better perspective on him as a pitcher. The data is from Brooks Baseball while the graph is my original.
(For a general explanation of the topic of Pitch F/X and specifically how to read this type of graph, please click here.)
The blue line, Dyer’s fastball, has been one of his major problems. It features nice sink at 91 MPH but it’s relatively straight horizontally. Brooks tells us that AFL hitters didn’t swing and miss at all against Dyer’s fastball, whiffing on just 1.22% of their swings, but Dyer was able to force an incredible 8.5 to 1 groundball to flyball ratio (GB/FB). Dyer also had some trouble locating it, preventing it from being anything more than a big league average speed. In order to compensate for his four-seam fastball’s problems, Dyer relied heavily on his cutter, actually throwing it a little bit more than his fastball in this sample, and locating it well at 89 MPH, throwing it for a strike about two-thirds of the time. Dyer’s cutter started like his fastball out of his hand before featured nice late cutting action, good enough to force a moderate amount of swings and misses and still a 5.3 to 1 GB/FB. Dyer’s cutter looked plus, but one of the reasons it was so effective was its contrast with his fastball. Dyer has to get both of his pitches right in order to maximize what he ahs.
Dyer’s best secondary pitch was his curveball, which he had trouble placing in the zone , missing with it over half the time, but was able to throw from the same arm slot as his cutter before featuring nice downward action. He was able to force a swing-and-miss 18.52% of the times he threw it, easily the highest ratio among his pitches. If Dyer can locate it better, his curveball can be certainly a big league average pitch and probably above-average.
Dyer’s changeup and “sinker”, which was really just a changeup that he accidentally threw at fastball velocity, were not pitches that hitters had any trouble making contact with, but he was able to use their contrast from his fastball in terms of horizontal movement, and in the case of the changeup, speed differential to force weak contact, especially on the ground.
Dyer’s problem is that he really doesn’t have a second consistent plus pitch after his cutter, with his curveball showing flashes but at other times looking way off, and his fastball like an average pitch at best. But he mixes his four pitch mix well, is a mature presence on the mound, and can keep hitters off balance. Dyer is still 24 years old and has a little more room to mature, but he shows the flashes and has the upside of a big league innings-eating 4th starter, more likely as a 5th starter. The Rays have a multiplicity of starting pitchers with higher upside than that, so Dyer will likely fill a long relief role if he can crack the Rays’ roster. But he almost assuredly has a big league future and don’t disregard him as a starting pitcher either.