Our first interview of the new season had us talking with pitcher James Dykstra. It seems appropriate to lead off with a prospect who was little-known coming into the season, but who has started to appear on radar screens thanks to some strong offseason scouting reports and very good numbers with Kannapolis here in April. This 6th round pick from 2013’s stat line so far in Class A: 17.2 IP, 15 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 19 K and 28 ground-outs vs 2 fly-outs. Dysktra throws a four-seamer in the low-mid 90’s, a low 90’s 2-seamer, change-up and a curve/slider.
James talked with us about his collegiate background, changes made since the transition to professional baseball and Harry Potter…
FutureSox (FS): One can find scouting reports, but we’d like to hear how you would describe your own repertoire of pitches.
James Dysktra (JD): You know, I’m a ground ball guy, with the fastball; sinker, change-up, curveball. I’m more about location than anything else. I’ve been keeping the ball down this year and getting outs that way.
FS: What do you feel your strengths are as a pitcher?
JD: My control, really that’s been big. The ability to keep the ball down. Last year [with Rookie affiliate Great Falls] I was up a bit and got hit around, I think my hit rate was double what it has been this year. I’ve got great control with the fastballs now, and with the change and off-speed stuff too.
FS: Conversely, do you feel you have a weakness, or an area that you or the organization have you focused on to improve?
JD: In Spring Training, they had me working on staying tall, off my back side. Trying to get more downward plane, using my lower half more. I was working on my curveball or slider, whichever it is, getting a better feel for it. Trying to work on when to throw the breaking pitch over, versus making it an out pitch.
FS: You were somewhat of a surprise draft pick in the 6th round, with very few people having heard about you. What do you think got you noticed by the White Sox, that gave them the confidence to take you that high in the draft?
JD: Talked with the White Sox through people a little my junior year, so it started there. I was a little off the radar, transferring from LSU to a NAIA school [Cal State San Marcos], I had gotten a little off track. Some talking there because my college coach knows some scouts. My senior year I changed completely as a pitcher, hitting 92 to 96, throwing harder, change-up increased, better control, a lot more polished. I think that got attention.
FS: Do you have a preference between working as a starter versus coming out of the bullpen?
JD: I’d say starting. Just because, I’m a ground ball pitcher, I like it when hitters swing early into bad contact. Keeps pitch counts down. As a reliever some of that isn’t as good, if people are on base and you need an out right now. If you don’t start an inning, it’s harder to work the inning the same way.
FS: You’ve been getting a ton of ground ball outs, your ratio [28:2 GB:FB] is almost ridiculous. What makes you able to do that so effectively?
JD: Mainly it’s control of the fastball, most of those come off the fastball. Keeping it down in the zone really well. With my two-seamer, I’m told it is pretty heavy, and cuts in. Hitters are rolling over it.
FS: Change of pace question… what is your favorite baseball moment, to this point in your young career?
JD: I’d say my senior year [at CSSM]. I changed as a person and as a pitcher. The team was incredible, we started like 24-2, were ranked 3rd in the country. We really put the school on the map, and now they’re moving to Division II, and that was a big part of it I think. Just a great year.
FS: Going further off the baseball track, let’s give people a picture of you off the field. How about some favorite TV shows or movies right now?
JD: For TV, I like American Horror Story, really into that lately. My favorite baseball movie, I’d say Little Big League. I’m also a huge fan of the Harry Potter movies, really got into those.
FS: Last question. Now that you’ve been around the organization on a couple teams and for a spring training, tell us about a fun or funny teammate so far.
JD: The guy who just got promoted, Sean Bierman. He was the class clown, kept everyone loose. But really, the team just has good chemistry with everyone. Everyone gets along real well, it’s a fun team.
Thanks to James for taking the time to talk with us, and to Intimidators Baseball for helping arrange this interview.