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As you follow the AZL, don't sleep on Dallas Beeler

As you follow the AZL, don't sleep on Dallas Beeler
Dallas Beeler (photo from smokiesbaseball.com)

It's been fun to follow the fall league this year with 3 of the Cubs top 4 prospects playing for the Mesa Solar Sox.  Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora are all drawing national attention and raves from prospect experts such as Jason Parks, Jim Callis, Keith Law, and Jonathan Mayo.

There's another player that intrigues me is 6'5" RHP Dallas Beeler. He's a bit of a sleeper in that he doesn't have the same pedigree as the other 3 players we mentioned  He was a 41st round draft choice out of Oral Roberts in 2010, though part of that was because he had just undergone Tommy John surgery.  The Cubs saw potential despite his less than stellar numbers.  They signed him to a slightly overslot bonus rather than risking him returning to school and raising his stock once he was fully healthy.

It turned out to be a wise investment.  Beeler immediately impressed upon joining the Cubs, putting up a 2.95 ERA after being drafted and then dominated in Peoria, posting a 1.66 ERA with just 6 walks and 35 strikeouts in 43.1 innings before receiving a promotion to AA Tennessee in his first full season.

But the ascent has slowed down as Beeler remains at Tennessee two years later.  He had an off year in 2012 and then struggled to stay healthy last season with a finger injury.  I asked Mick Gillespie, the Smokies announcer, about the injury and whether he had any lingering elbow issues from the TJ surgery,

From what I understand he just had an issue with a finger ligament but it wasn't something that would be a long term problem. Probably could have been pitching for the Smokies again late last season. He doesn't have any elbow or arm issues.

In fact, Gillespie believes Beeler can be an innings horse.

He certainly appeared to be healthy in his first AZL stint, showing good velocity with all his pitches.  Beeler is the kind of pitcher this organization likes.  He's tall and gets good plane on his delivery, pounding the lower part of the zone with a hard two seamer that has been clocked at 91-94 mph and a hard slider (some call it a cutter) in the 87 mph range in his first outing.

Despite the tall frame and a strong arm, Beeler isn't a strikeout pitcher.  However, in 54 innings last year in AA, he had an incredible 3.67 GO/AO ratio and allowed hitters to hit just .214.  According to Gillespie,

Dallas gets a lot of weak ground balls. When he says ahead in the count he is very tough. What I really liked about him this year before the season ending trip to the DL was his ability to reach back and find power when he needed an out. He was doing great with the "pitch to contact" but then could use the power of his big frame when necessary.

One thing Beeker may need to work on is getting better separation with his pitches.  Beeler's splitter/changeup was 85, just 7-8 mph difference from his fastball and just a couple ticks slower than the slider.  But even if he doesn't, he wouldn't be the first pitcher to make an impact with hard stuff across the board.

Gillespie added,

The biggest thing I think he needed to improve on was something he did much better last year...Pitching with runners on base and two outs. He had so many outings the last few years where he was one or two pitches or an out or so away from a great start. Then would give up a hit, wild pitch or walk and ruin it. It cost Beeler wins but in 2013 I noticed a marked improvement. That has to continue.

He's not a heralded name but Beeler is a guy the Cubs have worked closely with the past two offseasons.  He may not have been a bonus baby, but the Cubs have certainly invested a lot of development time in the tall RHP.  That tells me they believe he has potential to contribute at the MLB level, perhaps as soon as this upcoming season.

Beeler understands that he's been given a great opportunity and takes his lack of high draft pick status in stride.

"The way I thought of it was 'I'm not getting drafted as a number, I'm getting drafted to have an opportunity to play.  I'm happy that I signed in the 41st round. I'd rather be the underdog than be that guy that's in a high place and comes down. I'd rather be the guy that comes from behind, but shines through and everyone says 'Oh my God, he's the 41st round pick, but he's here."

And that's the other thing about Beeler.  The Cubs liked his makeup from day one.  He's a competitor and has some fire on the mound, but most importantly he's very coachable.  He balances the two traits well and talks about some of his experiences with Jeff Fassero, the pitching with whom he has worked since the beginning of 2012,

"We get into arguments on the mound," Beeler said, "He'll say this, and I'll say 'Well, I dont want to do that.' But he's one of those guys you can come to a common ground with and realize why he's wanting you to do that."

When I asked Gillespie about him, he added,

Dallas is a very good guy. An awesome teammate that supports the other guys on the team. While on the DL he was still a team leader and cheerleader.

Beeler may not get the publicity that some of his AZL teammates do, but his combination of stuff, competitiveness, and mental makeup give him a solid chance of teaming up with them once again someday in Wrigley Field.

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  • Sounds exactly like the kind of teammate I want on my team. And I really admire the hard work and fire that he appears to show, unlike some others that we have mentioned in previous articles. I guess I will have to take a closer look at Gameday or the box scores when he is on the mound. Perhaps a #3/4 guy

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Closer to a 5 workhorse. His ability to get Ground balls also makes him a middle relief guy too.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    I think he may be pitching today or tomorrow. Groundball machine.

  • Sounds a little like a Jake Peavy profile! Especially the pitching with fire part.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Not enough swing and miss for a Peavy comp.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    More like a Doug Fister sort, or not enough of a strikeout guy to be like Fister?

  • "Pounds the lower part of the strike zone"...like Rick Reuschel? I would take that.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    I would take that too. He doesn't miss as many bats as Reuschel did but I think he has a chance to improve that.

  • John, I really enjoy what you're doing! Do you think Beeler will be added to the roster since he is Rule V eligible?

  • Thanks. I think that's what he's fighting for. He's a borderline candidate. The Cubs would certainly like to keep him. The question is whether a team thinks he's ready to play in the MLB soon. If he does well in the AZL, then it's possible he gets protected because scouts will see his solid stuff and take a chance. I think he can be a middle reliever in the big leagues right now, so there may be a risk of losing him.

  • He's rule 5 draft eligible this year, so he has to be added to the 40 man roster. Unlike some of the other Pitching prospects at the lower levels, (Paniagua, Castillo, Peralta, etc) he might actually be selected with his performances in AFL. Could he occupy a spot on a 25 man roster in 2014 as a middle reliever-swingman? I'd be curious t o see how he fares in the hitter friendly PCL.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes, I think there's a danger he'll get picked if he's not protected because I think he can be a middle reliever right now. He's got great size, athleticism, and solid MLB stuff and command.

  • Reminds me of sitting in class. Teacher up front. Beeler?........Beeler?.....He's already at Wrigley with Cameron. Hey batter, batter, suwing, batter. I like him!

  • In reply to Hairdogg:

    Ha!

  • I'd like to see the Cubs put Beeler on the 40 man roster and not take a chance on him being selected. It looks like there won't be too many players other than Alcantara to protect and I've always liked Beeler's consistency. If he were to be factor to pitch in Chicago in 2014 there could possibly be a slew of promotions forthcoming... you have to figure Romero and Hendricks will be given chances to make it, Vizcaino and Dolis should also be in the mix.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    I think Hendricks has a shot by midseason, as does Rivero. Vizcaino might be more late season and out of the bullpen. Dolis lost his 40 man roster spot, so his road wont' be as easy.

  • John , this a good piece and he's an interesting guy. However, the elephant in the room is how we're going to field a rotation that is worthy of a playoff-competitive team , sooner rather than later. There seem to be so many moving parts. Does Shark get extended or traded? Are we really going to be competitive on Tanaka? Are we going to be active in trade mkt? No question, our depth has improved but we still need to figure out where the impact is going to come from.

  • Very interesting article, thanks. I always like the underdogs.

  • The way I see it, the front office sending him to the AZL was their way of getting a longer look at him since he has been hurt to determine whether or not to protect him. Kind of like a test. If he does well, he gets protected. If he doesn't do well, he's left off the 40 and draft eligible.

  • John... Interesting reports from the AZ Instructs... Arodys Vizcaino, Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres all saw action in an intra-squad game... Vizcaino got hammered, but no report on his velocity or other pitches...

    Jeng-Ho Tseng is back after getting hit by a comebacker and it seems like he looked good... Juan Paniagua is pitching well with control and a 96 mph fastball and Jacob Hannemann seems to have some raw power, he won the Instrucs Cubs HR Derby.

  • Vizcaino is bound to be rusty... otherwise good stuff! Thanks!

  • Whats our roster at now, 37? If we get Tanaka and roster Beeler, wed likely have to DFA at least 2 on the current roster, since I wont be surprised if someone like Rivero makes the team this spring.

  • Tanaka looks more difficult to get everyday. Now it looks like both the Yankees and the Rangers are going to go after him hard.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    You can add Boston and the Dodgers to the list of teams that want him badly. Theo has worked magic before, maybe he can pull another rabbit(tanaka) out or his hat.

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