Name: Andrew Doyle
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: November 12, 1987
Acquired: 2009 Amateur Draft, 4th round
The Texas Rangers selected Andrew Doyle in the fourth-round of last summer's MLB Draft after he'd completed a solid three-year career at the University of Oklahoma.
Doyle was the leader and Friday night starter on the Sooners' staff for much of the last two seasons. The hurler posted a 8-4 record with a 4.21 earned-run average in 92.0 innings last season. He surrendered 90 hits while walking 23 and fanning 65.
After being drafted, Doyle and the Rangers went through the contract negotiation process. While some early round picks hold out until the mid-August deadline, the right-hander ended up signing for a slot-level $234,000 less than a month after the draft.
"It got to the point where I needed to make a decision," Doyle said, "and talking to Jay Eddings, the area scout, if I would've made a decision two weeks later, I could've ended up down in Arizona and been in the rookie league the rest of the summer.
"I think just the fact that I made that decision to get out there and not go after more money definitely benefitted me in the long run. Now I know how things are run in the Rangers organization and what is expected of players."
Getting into the organization early was a definite benefit for Doyle, as he was immediately able to show off his skills. In 19 innings out of the bullpen for short-season Spokane, Doyle logged a 1.89 ERA while walking just four and fanning 24.
After a late-season promotion to Single-A Hickory, the right-hander yielded seven earned runs in 6.2 innings, but he still missed bats, striking out nine.
Although he was drafted as a starting pitcher, the Rangers brought Doyle out of the bullpen during his debut summer in an effort to limit his innings.
"[The Rangers] felt like it was important to keep my inning count under 120 innings, so pretty much I was on a pitching plan," said Doyle, who logged 92 innings at OU last season. "I pretty much knew when I was throwing, so it was kind of similar, so I could get my mental preparation going."
Doyle expects to go back into a starting rotation in 2010, and while he doesn't mind coming out of the bullpen, he believes starting plays to his strengths on the mound.
"To me, it doesn't matter if I move up the ranks as a starting pitcher or reliever," he said. "Just any way possible that I can help any team along the road is a plus. But my strength, I believe, is as a starter."
A primary reason for Doyle's success as a starting pitcher is his ability to attack the strike zone with his bread-and-butter sinking fastball.
Oftentimes in college ball, hitters are able to fist base hits into the outfield despite getting jammed on a heavy sinker. But with a wood bat in pro ball, the same pitch typically leads to a broken bat and a weak ground out.
"I like to work inside and sometimes, with an aluminum bat, that doesn't always bode well for the pitcher," Doyle said. "But now, at this level, it's definitely a lot easier to get inside on hitters."
Doyle expects the wooden bats will help his entire repertoire.
"I think that's going to compliment my other pitches as well because I'm able to establish that inside fastball and I'll be able to expand off the plate either way," he said. "I think having a wooden bat in the hitter's hand is definitely going to step up my game a little bit."
Aside from the sinker, the Illinois native also uses an advanced changeup and a slider. Though Doyle wasn't known as a strikeout pitcher at OU, he racked up 12 strikeouts per nine innings in pro ball last year with that sinker-changeup combo.
"It was a mixture of working in a lot early in the count and trying to finish off with my changeup," said Doyle of his high strikeout total. "Traditionally, you're not supposed to throw a changeup right-on-right, but I felt like I could use my changeup whenever I needed to and in any count. I feel like my changeup right now is my out pitch, but I need all my pitches."
Since joining the Rangers' organization, Doyle has made the development of his slider a major focus.
"My main concern coming in was the slider, and I've been trying to hammer that down a lot over the offseason," he said. "I'm trying to work on some grips and stuff like that. I felt that it was important, early on in my career, to really try and develop that into more of an out pitch.
"I felt like through the summer and through the Instructional League, I was able to make some progress on the pitch. It's not there completely yet, but things take time and you've got to realize that."
Also See: Sizing up the right-handed starters (December 9, 2009)
Final Instructional League Report (October 27, 2009)
Q&A with Rangers 4th Round Pick Andrew Doyle (June 11, 2009)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball: While Doyle isn't likely to blow many hitters away with his fastball, he pounds the strike zone and loves to work both corners of the plate, allowing him to get more than his share of early swings, groundouts, and broken bats. Doyle's upper-80s, low-90s sinker is certainly his bread-and-butter, and it allowed him to get 1.6 groundouts per flyout in his debut summer last year. The early swings lead to relatively low pitch counts, allowing him to rack up high inning totals in college [99.1 as a sophomore, 92.0 as a junior]. The right-hander also has a low-90s four-seamer in his arsenal, and the Rangers are trying to get him to develop and throw it more often. Still, the sinker figures to be the primary pitch for Doyle as he works his way up the organizational ladder.
Other Pitches: The 22-year-old's changeup is his most advanced offspeed pitch right now and, as he mentions in the above interview, he is confident in throwing it to both lefties and righties in any count. His biggest focus since signing has been finding a consistent slider. Doyle currently works with a low-80s sweeping slider that was effective at times last summer. Doyle wasn't a big strikeout guy in college, but an improved slider could do wonders in getting swings-and-misses against right-handed hitters, particularly at the upper levels. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound prospect has a legitimate opportunity to possess three solid big league pitches in the future.
Projection: Doyle has the ceiling to become a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues, but he's most likely a back-end or bullpen guy down the line. The Illinois native has the stuff to do both, particularly if his slider develops. Though he'll probably never be overpowering, a strong slider could give Doyle a strong big league repertoire, giving him the opportunity to carve out a long career in the Majors. As with most talented prospects, consistently will be the most important factor.
2010 Outlook: Even though he logged just 6.2 innings out of the bullpen at Single-A Clinton last season, Doyle has a good chance to begin the season in the rotation at High-A Bakersfield. Because the 22-year-old was a regular contributor for three years at the University of Oklahoma, he is polished and he should be able to handle the California League in his first full season. Doyle is unlikely to reach Double-A Frisco in 2010, but it's not completely out of the question.