When Texas selected Tate out of UC-Santa Barbara, they no doubt envisioned him as a mid- to top-of-the-rotation arm, with power stuff and a chance for at least two plus pitches. However, Tate now finds himself with the Yankees on what had be considered a “buy low” move after he underwhelmed in his first few months as a pro. Tate not only failed to find any sort of command in the zone with his fastball, and lacked consistency with his off speed pitches, but on top of that saw his velocity fall well off of his college readings of 95-to-98 mph (reportedly down to 92-to-94 mph in his first full pro season). In 2016 Tate walked 3.6 hitters per 9 across 82.1 IP – not a horrible number in and of itself, but when combined with only 7.7 K’s/9 and 10.8 H/9 that’s a lot of base runners to have to deal with, and provided this was at all at the Class A level, it doesn’t bode well for a guy who will play much of 2017 as a 23-year-old.
Tate strikes me as a very good athlete who has a delivery that requires a specific rhythm and coordination for him to consistently locate his pitches. Much like Trevor Bauer(RHP, Indians), Tate is very quick with all of his actions and tends to rush towards the plate. This in turn impacts his release point and ultimately his ability to spot the fastball where he wants to. He has a lighting quick arm and is capable of generating excellent late life. Nothing he throws is straight, and when he stays down in the zone can be very hard to square up. The problem is that he tends to miss up in the zone a lot with the fastball. When it’s up in the zone it flattens out, and because he is inconsistent with his secondary stuff, he becomes quite hittable. I can’t say for sure what caused the reported dip in stuff this past season, however based on the life and velocity I have seen this fall it seems like it was more mental than anything else, as he’s been back to 94-to-97 mph in my looks. He likely backed off a bit during the regular season in an attempt to locate better – something that probably threw a wrench into his regular rhythm and timing. When that happens, it can take some time to get everything back in line, and get that explosiveness to return.
While some may already be saying that Tate is a bullpen arm, the ingredients are there for him to have three above-average to plus pitches (70 FB, 60 Sld, 55 Chg)—and if he can get to even 40-grade command with the fastball, he has a chance to be a solid #4 starter.