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MadFriars Q&A: Padres pitching prospect Dan Dallas

Dan Dallas was one of 10 pitchers the San Diego Padres selected among their first 12 picks in the 2016 draft as the organization loaded up on the mound domestically while preparing for a major push on position players internationally. Despite going to high school in Buffalo, not noted as a major baseball hotbed, the lefty drew scouts because of a solid fastball and intense competitive spirit on the mound.

We caught up with the 18-year-old hurler in Peoria last week.

MadFriars: When was the first time that you started to hit the circuit.

Dan Dallas: I grew up playing baseball my whole life, but it didn’t get real serious until going into my freshman year. I started getting on big travel teams. I was never a guy who went to Perfect Game or Area Codes or anything like that, so they always called me the late riser coming out of Buffalo.

Part of that late rise was about adding size and velocity in the last year. At what point did you realize this was a real possibility for you?

Dan Dallas: My freshman year is when I really started pitching. Before that I was an outfielder. Junior year is when it really started to pick up and I figured I really wanted to start pitching for college. The fall going into my senior year is when the first pro looks came. My junior year, I was this lefty in Western New York just throwing 83 or 84, then I got into an offseason workout and started hitting numbers like 89, 90, 91 and scouts started calling.

Did you do that on your own, or were you working someone’s program?

Dan Dallas: I had a trainer, called Full Circuit Athletics in Orchard Park. The guy who runs it, named Charlie Karstedt, is actually an associate scout for the Minnesota Twins. He kind of got my name out there and the pro scouts started coming in and liked what they saw.

Has there been an adjustment or something here that’s surprised you the most as you’ve made the transition to professional ball?

Dan Dallas: I’d say the biggest thing is, in Western New York, at 88 to 90, you’re throwing hard out there. Once you get here, everyone throws hard. So the big thing is, you have to figure out how to make pitches count when you really need to. So that’s hitting your spots and getting hitters to chase your pitches is what you have to learn quickly. Throwing hard can only get you so far, now it’s the other things that take you to the next level.

Where are you sitting right now in terms of velocity?

Dan Dallas: Right now, I’m about 88 to 91 or 92. I’ll drop down a little bit every now and then to like 86-88, but for the most part 88 to 92. I’ve never really gone much higher.

Do you work with the four-seamer only?

Dan Dallas: I throw the four-seam, but I’ve got the lefty tail, so some hitters think it’s a two-seamer.

As a guy who came to pitching a little bit later, when did you start to spin a breaking ball and what do you feel most comfortable with on the offspeed stuff?

Dan Dallas: I used to throw a spike curve, so that used to be my second go-to pitch. But with the laces here and hitters being able to pick up big loopy curveballs, I’ve been trying to get more of a tight 12-6 curveball. So I’ve been sticking with, as my secondary pitch, a change more. I like to go the change more than the curveball now.

With the air as dry as it is out here, has it been an adjustment to try to find your grip on the change-up?

Dan Dallas: I actually worked with Jean Garcia on our team. He has a really good change, so I worked with him and moved the grip around a little to get something that fades away and is hard to pick up out of the hand. It wasn’t really hard for me to pick it up, it’s just figuring out what works best to get batters out.

What’s your workload look like right now? Are you doing two bullpens between your outings?

Dan Dallas: Right now, just one. I just started throwing games a couple weeks ago, so just one bullpen in between.

What are things you’ve taken away from that bullpen work, whether it’s mechanical, mental, approach?

Dan Dallas: The Padres organization as a whole really preaches the throwing program, which I love. The throwing program consists of hitting spots and trying to get the max distance out of your arm, and then you bring it into the bullpen. One big thing that I’ve fixed is not being so rotational when I pitch and being downhill, staying in a line and trying to hit the zone in and out, staying within the kneecaps. The whole process has been the biggest thing so far.

As you’ve gotten into game settings, what situations have been challenges for you to work through?

Dan Dallas: The thing about the hitters down here is they all swing at everything. They’re all sitting first-pitch fastball, so if you make a mistake and leave it over the plate, they’re going to hit it. The last outing, I learned that and got hit around a little. If you’re going to throw first-pitch fastball, you’ve really got to command it, hit the spot. But getting ahead strike one is the biggest thing – especially in this league – because then you can work around with everything else.

The mental component is such a large part of this process. What sort of resources have you turned to for that?

Dan Dallas: I met [Jason] Amarosa about four weeks ago and he’s been a huge help as far as mental toughness and how to get yourself to handle failure. And my cousin, Paul Goldschmidt, plays for the Diamondbacks, so whenever I need advice, I turn to him. He’s always telling me that baseball’s a game of failure and it’s how you bounce back.

While he was here, did you have a chance to talk with Eric Lauer, who’s another cold-weather, late-riser lefty, and learn from his experiences over his last few years?

Dan Dallas: Yeah, I probably really annoyed Lauer when he was here because I asked him every possible question. He’s a guy I tried to learn the most that I could from. He’s obviously a first-rounder and is a good ballplayer, but he’s a guy who’s humble and will give you the best advice he can. He said going to college was the best decision ever for him and he learned some things there he could share with me. Now he’s moving his way up quick, so I’m just going to stay in touch with him – I text him every now and then – and he’s a good guy to go to.
Coming in as part of the group with Mason Thompson and Reggie Lawson, how do you guys work together to push each other.

Dan Dallas: You know, in professional baseball, every day someone’s trying to take your job, so you’ve got to compete. But me, Reggie and Mason are always working together, and it’s been a blessing because those guys have had a lot of experience in big tournaments and scouts and everything. We try to share ideas and thoughts about how outings went. It’s tough because you want to see guys do the best they can and then, when they leave it’s tough. But, my goal is to see everyone I’m playing with up in the big leagues.

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