Tate, a product of Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California, was a reliever at the University of California Santa Barbara up through his sophomore year when it was decided he would move in to the starting rotation in 2015.
He struggled somewhat too this season in low-A Hickory as a full time starter, his first full year in the role at the professional level, going 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 27 walks. He only allowed five home runs, which was admirable among all of his appearances. He was both a starter and a reliever at Santa Barbara but the Rangers’ had planned to develop him as a starter.
Yankees pitching coordinator Danny Borrell had worked with him before the trade and knew he had a great arm and a lot of potential. And he talked a lot about that transition from reliever to starter.
“He’s been starting off and on," Borrell said. "He closed a little bit in his first few years of college and was also a starter in his last year at UCSB and was going back and forth this year. The goal is to just ease him back into it as the games progress.”
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when he was traded to the Yankees and ended up in Low-A Charleston.
“One of my teammates actually told me during one of our practices that I had been traded," Tate said. "It all happened so suddenly, I couldn’t really process it at that point in time. I hadn’t heard of any trade rumors potentially so it took my by surprise for sure.”
Though the stats might not back it up to date, Tate comes to Charleston with a few great pitches and his new coaches are excited to see what he has in store for the future.
“In his first outing in Charleston he looked really good," Borrell said. "He looked comfortable. He came in to the game in a tough situation with runners on base, but he looked good. H was throwing 94-97 mph, a nice little slider as well and a good changeup. What I saw [that] night were three good quality pitches---solid Major League pitches.”
A relatively light-weighted guy, he does throw with a lot of effort, but his range of pitches and how well each is developed is a huge strength that the organization is thrilled about. He has a mid to high-90s fastball and a devastating slider that bites in the high-80s.
“Fastball is definitely my best pitch overall but I like to think I have a good range of pitches,” Tate said.
He is usually in good command of his pitches too and is able to maintain their velocity and movement with good quality and easy adjustments here and there. His changeup has improved tremendously since moving into professional baseball but he could still improve in a lot of ways as he climbs his way up in the system.
“He stays athletic and aggressive every day and that’s what we’re preaching to him every day is to stay comfortable on the mound and the rest will take care of itself,” Borrell added.
Charleston manager Luis Dorante did not know that much about him before the trade but like Borrell, Tate’s first outing in Charleston pleasantly surprised him.
“This is a kid who is still trying to get comfortable after a big change," Dorante said. "He was thrown in there and I thought it went well. He needs to work on his fastball command a little more but it is getting better every day. If he’s got good command, he probably won’t be here long.”
“He has a quality arm and we want to make sure he gets a lot of touches on the ball," Borrell sadded. "The main thing is getting him comfortable again with his delivery and comfortable with his teammates and he’s doing well so far.”
He has posted a 1.50 ERA through his first two appearances with Charleston, both of which were scheduled three-inning relief stints and that could be the plan over the remaining weeks of the season.
While overall the numbers this season in this former fourth overall pick haven't been great to date, Tate added that going through and not having the best first full season numbers-wise has only made him stronger and a better player and a better person.
“You have the ups and downs and you just have to battle through it. The numbers weren’t great at first, but as far as my development goes I did get something good out of it. It made me more of a mentally tough pitcher going through what I went through. I think it showed me how good I actually am and how good I can be in the future,” Tate concluded.