With another two-way player, the Tampa Bay Rays look to be starting a trend in the big leagues. Will Tanner Dodson follow the path of Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani or ex-big leaguer Brooks Kieschnick?
In the 2017 draft, the Tampa Bay Rays selected everyone’s college player of the year Brendan McKay. He’s progressing nicely through the minors as both a star starting pitcher and a first baseman. He is following a very regimented routine of pitching and hitting, and doing a standout job of it, elevating himself to the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Last night, with the 71st pick, the Rays selected right-handed pitcher Tanner Dodson out of the University of California-Berkeley. And, like past John Olerud three-time, Two-Way Player of the Year award winner McKay, Dodson is a finalist for the 2018 award.
Who is Tanner Dodson?
The outfielder/relief pitcher Tanner Dodson will give the Tampa Bay Rays another opportunity to review the talent they have drafted and use as they see fit. Dodson ended the 2018 season hitting .320 for Cal while sporting a 2-1 record on the mound with 11 saves. He has a mid-90’s fastball and an above-average slider and is a hit-for-average batter with a lot of doubles.
Probably Dodson’s most valued accomplishment so far is his performance in last summer’s Cape Cod League where the nation’s top collegiate prospects to show off their skills. The true test in this league is that hitters use wooden bats, a valuable assessment of big league-ready hitting. Dodson showed well, leading the league in hitting with a .365 batting average with eight doubles.
Of that experience, Dodson told sfgate.com:
"“It was just awesome. It was the first time in my life that I got to play every day. I got to compete with the best guys in the country. Luckily, I got into a groove and came away with the batting title."
What should the Rays expect from this two-way player?
Tanner Dodson does not join the Rays franchise with the accolades of Brendan McKay. If all goes as planned, McKay could start to steal headlines from the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. But, Dodson certainly could forge his own path as a valued bullpen arm.
Prior to the past few years, the most recent two-way player to hit the majors was Chicago Cubs draft pick Brooks Kieschnick out of the University of Texas. But, the Cubs chose not to use Kieschnick as a pitcher. It wasn’t until the 2003 and 2004 seasons that the Milwaukee Brewers utilized him as an extra bullpen arm. In those two seasons, he made 74 appearances on the mound while hitting .286 with eight home runs in 144 at bats.
I could see Dodson following that path as he progresses through the Rays organization. While the routine he follows might be different from McKay’s, it will be interesting to watch how the Rays plan to use Dodson. Who knows? He and Brendan McKay could make an interesting righty/lefty combination in games for the Rays.