Dillon Dingler was surprised how quickly the collegiate baseball recruiting process started during his career at Jackson High in Ohio. He received interest from multiple universities, including Cincinnati and Notre Dame, as an underclassman.
But once Ohio State expressed interest and eventually offered him a scholarship, Dingler knew where he wanted to play collegiately. He grew up an Ohio State fan and verbally committed to the program in the summer following his sophomore year in August 2015. He joined Ohio State as a freshman in 2017-18.
The decision to attend Ohio State has paid off for Dingler, as he’s experienced tremendous growth over the last 2½ years.
Dinger is considered one of the top catchers in college baseball and is projected to go in the early rounds of June’s MLB draft. If he can show improvement at the plate, Dinger could find his way into first-round consideration.
The draft process is a new experience for Dinger, who received sparse interest out of high school in 2017, he said.
“It’s cool to see your hard work pay off on a daily basis,” Dingler said. “With the draft, you don’t really want to think about it because you have no idea what is going to happen. You have to just go out and have the same mindset and take care of business. If you do that, it will probably fall in your favor.”
As a freshman in 2018, Dingler hit .244 with eight doubles, one triple, four home runs and 17 RBIs in 176 at-bats. He struck out 29 times and drew 21 walks. Defensively, Dingler mostly played center field while receiving occasional starts at catcher.
Dingler showed improvement at the plate while also moving back to his natural position of catcher last season. He suffered a broken hamate bone in his left hand during the season opener last season, which forced him to miss a month of his sophomore year.
Last year, he recorded a .291 batting average with nine doubles, two triples, three home runs and 19 RBIs in 165 at-bats. He displayed better plate discipline with 27 walks compared to 23 strikeouts.
Midway through last season, Dingler started calling his own pitches. Dingler enjoys the strategy and sequencing of calling the pitches and believes it improves the tempo for the pitchers he catches, he said.
“My catching ability would be my biggest strength,” Dingler said. “I started catching probably when I was an eighth-grader. I’ve been just progressing my game since then. I’ve always been a decent catcher, but I have picked up some things here and there since I’ve been a freshman here that have allowed me to take my game to the next level.”
In the offseason, Dingler dedicated significant time to refining his skills at the plate. Although his numbers weren’t spectacular in his first two years, he has solid raw power and controls the strike zone well. He’s focused on developing more consistency and a better mindset at the plate as a junior this spring.
Dingler was a team captain for the Buckeyes as a sophomore. Besides improving his skills on the field, he also wants to take the next step as a leader.
“I just want to grow more as a teammate and with helping people out, if they are struggling or need help with something,” Dingler said. “I just want to improve my leadership skills. I also want to be consistent at the plate.”
Dingler enters this spring as the early favorite to win Big Ten Player of the Year. Although he hopes to experience personal improvement from last season, his main focus is leading Ohio State to a conference championship.
The Buckeyes have made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two years. Last season, the Buckeyes made an improbable run to win the conference tournament to earn the automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament.
This season, Michigan is the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten after falling one victory shot of winning the College World Series in 2019. The Buckeyes are the biggest challengers to Michigan, and Dingler hopes they can have a noteworthy year in what might be his last collegiate season.
“Our mindset since I’ve been here has been to just win the Big Ten and win it outright,” Dingler said. “That remains the goal this year, but we also want to take the next step. We want to host a regional. If you are doing things right, the Big Ten will come and hopefully, that leads to hosting a regional.
“We just need to take care of business every day and not overlook any opponents, especially early in the season because that’s huge to building momentum and getting your season off to a fast start.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.