Dylan Floro let one opportunity pass him by, and suddenly his career went into a downward spiral. Entering the 2009 MLB Draft, Floro tantalized scouts with a low-90s fastball, an excellent slider, and even a solid changeup, and he looked like a good bet to be selected in the first two rounds. Instead, a strong commitment to Cal State Fullerton caused him to drop to the Rays in the 20th round, and while the Rays made a bid to sign him, he turned them down. For a while, it looked like that would be the nail in his coffin for his hopes at a major league career.
Over his three years at Fullerton, Floro’s stuff waned and he got more and more desperate trying to compensate. His fastball dipped into the high-80′s and his slider lost its sharp break, forcing Floro to continuously adjust his delivery to add more deception as the years went on. He went from a power pitcher attacking hitters to a crafty starter depending on deception and command to maintain success. And in the eyes of scouts, he went from a potential No. 2 or No. 3 starter to a middle relief type. Floro actually pitched very well in college, going 21-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 260.2 innings pitched, but scouts were convinced that his college success was unlikely to translate to pro ball. In the 2012 Draft, Floro ironically was selected by the Rays in the 13th round, seven rounds earlier than before, but instead of it being because of improvement from the top two rounds type of pitcher he had been, it was only because that was where he truly belonged to be drafted. He had gone from an exciting prospect to just another college reliever. But when they selected him, the Rays saw more. They saw the promise they had seen in him out of high school, and while he had gotten off-track, he had also learned exceptional command along the way. And since the moment he stepped into a professional uniform, Floro has made the Rays’ evaluation of him look awfully good.
In 2012 at Short Season-A Hudson Valley, Floro had an outstanding season in a relief role, going 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA, a 6.3 K/9, a 1.2 BB/9, and a 64.9% groundball rate in 18 appearances and 30 innings pitched. They started him in relief as they worked to smooth out his delivery and restore his stuff to what it once was. And while that process is ongoing, the Rays saw enough of Floro to unleash him at Low-A Bowling Green as a starting pitcher. The result has been dominance. Floro has gone 9-2 with a 1.56 ERA, managing a 6.9 K/9, a 1.6 BB/9, and a 64.3% groundball rate in 18 starts and 103.2 innings pitched. His groundball rate leads the Midwest League minimum 85 innings pitched and his ERA has lapped the field–the second-best pitcher in ERA is nearly a full run higher at 2.39. He has gotten his fastball back into the low-90′s with more consistency and done a great job locating it down in the zone with great sink. His slider has not come all the way back, but he’s throwing it harder and getting some tilt on it, forcing groundballs and a fair amount of strikeouts. And most impressive has been the development of his changeup, with which the Rays have worked with Floro to add depth and give him a weapon to use against left-handed batters. Floro ties his arsenal together by going a great job throwing all his pitches for strikes and keeping them down, and he has given same-side hitters difficulty picking up the ball thanks to his deception. This is the pitcher the Rays hoped to get when they drafted Floro in 2009, and thanks to the command he learned on college, he may even be better.
Even amidst his unbelievable season, Floro isn’t striking a ton of batters out, and he has to continue refining his secondary pitches to remain a starter. This season at Low-A is only the beginning of a process that will take years to complete. But the way that everything has taken place has to be a vindication for Floro about the way everything has transpired the last few years. His decision to attend college looked terrible for his career just over a year ago, but at the end of day, maybe it was precisely the right decision. We all miss opportunities in our lives. The key is to seize the next one that comes your way, and that is exactly what Dylan Floro has done.