If you’re looking for a pitcher with more upside in the Royals system, Chris Dwyer might be it. If you’re looking for the most bustable, Dwyer holds that distinction as well.
Dwyer, 4th round pick in 2009, ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects before 2011. His performance assures that he can’t rank in that group again this year. In 141.1 innings in 2011, Dwyer put up a 5.60 ERA and 1.429 WHIP while walking more than five batters per nine innings for Double A Northwest Arkansas. For Dwyer, who turns 24 in April, it’s not the performance that he’d have wanted to assure the Royals that he was ready for the next step.
It begs the question: does Chris Dwyer have a next step?
Dwyer has major league stuff. His curveball was ready when he was drafted and his fastball hangs around 92 mph and can touch 94 or 95. He’s not afraid to pitch inside. His changeup could be an average offering.
The issue with Dwyer is command.
It’s not enough that he doesn’t get the ball in the strike zone, but Dwyer allowed opponents to slug .515 against him in 2011. His fastball can be a little flat at times and he’ll leave it up as well. That’s bad news.
Most maddening is his inconsistency. Dwyer has gone through stretches where he can shut down offenses, only to turn around and get blasted in his next month of starts. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but merely flashes.
The jump to Double A isn’t an easy one, but the Royals had to expect a better year out of Dwyer than what he gave them. Going into 2011, Dwyer had struck out better than ten batters per nine innings but had walked a shade over four. That puts him into Jonathan Sanchez territory, which isn’t too bad, but it’s not reliable either. Sanchez has thrown no-hitters and has had games where he can’t make it through four innings.
Dwyer’s not a bust yet, but his consistency will limit his upside. If he figures it out, he could be a left-handed strikeout machine. He doesn’t have sharp splits that make him a flyball or home run risk. He gave up only 0.89 homers per nine innings last season and eight of his homers came with nobody on.
When a runner did get on – and Dwyer allowed a runner to reach base with nobody on at a .351 clip – Dwyer had a 12.49 ERA.
Despite those struggles, Dwyer is still a good strikeout pitcher and if he continues that trend a higher walkrate (in the upper 3s or lower 4s) is tolerable to make him a #3 or #4 starter in the big leagues. If he can figure out how to get that walkrate even lower and continue to strike people out, he’ll be back on track for success.
Dwyer figures to start next year in Double A for a few starts, but isn’t unlikely to start in Omaha either. He may get an invite and some early work in spring training which may determine his assignment for 2012. He remains as enigmatic as ever.