Tanner Dodson has been critical to the California Golden Bears’ success this spring. His unique skill set has allowed him to impact the game as a two-way player, playing in the outfield and serving as the team’s closer.
Dodson’s abilities make him an intriguing prospect in the 2018 MLB Draft, which begins June 4. Drafted in the 31st round by the New York Mets in 2015, Dodson has improved his draft stock during his three years at Cal. MLB.com ranks him as the 92nd-best prospect in this year’s draft class.
“The scouts have been pretty easy with me and have let me play this spring,” he said. “There hasn’t been much contact. There was a lot this past fall.”
After only being used as a pitcher his freshman year in 2016, Dodson earned a spot in the starting lineup, playing in the outfield and occasionally serving as the team’s designated hitter.
Recruited as a two-way player, Dodson said playing two positions the last two years has been an adjustment but that the coaches have helped him with his transition.
“It’s a little harder on your body so you have to manage your body well,” Dodson said. “You have to be smart on how many throws you make in the outfield before the game. Just take care of your legs and arms as best as you can. I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
A 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-handed pitcher, Dodson was a spot starter in his first two collegiate seasons, before being used solely as Cal’s closer this spring.
He has a three-pitch mix, but is more of a two-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his 96-97 mph fastball and above-average slider. Dodson doesn’t use his changeup frequently, but it has the potential to turn into a respectable offering.
Dodson has a 2.09 ERA with 11 saves, 33 strikeouts and seven walks in 38 2/3 innings this season.
“I think my strength is attacking and pounding the zone. Throwing my stuff and challenging hitters,” he said.
Dodson played in the Cape Cod League last summer as a two-way player. But it was his hitting that stood out to professional scouts. A gap-to-gap hitter, Dodson was the league’s batting championship with a .365 average to go along with one home run and 14 RBIs in 29 games.
A switch-hitter, Dodson is hitting .327 with one homer, 25 RBIs and 12 stolen bases with Cal this season. He has above-average speed and arm strength that would allow him to stick in centerfield in the pro ranks.
“I am pretty good at using all fields from both sides of the plate,” he said. “I just try to go out there and compete. Try to get on-base and be a run producer.”
Dodson’s father, Bo, spent 10 years in the minor leagues as a first baseman, after being drafted in the third round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1989. His professional experience has helped his son’s development, Dodson said.
“Growing up we would hit every day in the cages,” Dodson said. “He helps me more at this point with the mental part. Not staying too high or not getting too low. He tells me that baseball is an uneven game and to just stick with it and trust your abilities.”
Major league teams will likely have Dodson focus on one position in the professional ranks. Most envision him as a pitcher, but he said he’s open to doing whatever an organization asks of him.
“I love doing both, but I’d be cool doing one. I don’t have a preference,” he said.
(Photo by Marcus Edwards/KLCFotos.com via Cal Athletics)