The Rangers had drafted the hard-throwing Tate, who features a fastball in the upper 90s with a nasty slider, in the first round with the fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft out of the University of California – Santa Barbara.
After signing with the Rangers on June 12, Tate was assigned to the Spokane Indians of the short-season Northwest League. Tate pitched in two games with the Indians pitching two innings walking three and striking out three while allowing no runs.
Those appearances earned Tate an August call-up to the Hickory Crawdads of the South Atlantic League. Tate pitched in four games, pitching seven innings while striking out five, walking no one, allowing just one run.
The Crawdads ended up in the playoffs allowing Tate to get his first taste of postseason baseball. “The playoff atmosphere is a little bit different than the regular season, so it was good to be a part of that and be playing with a winning club. I was playing with some older guys too. You know, the game can speed up on you a little bit, and it was good that I was exposed to that,” Tate said of his playoff experience.
During the playoffs, Tate worked exclusively out of the bullpen and pitched a total of four innings, allowing six hits, striking out three while posting a 4.50 ERA.
Tate found himself at Hickory to start 2016, and the Rangers had some changes in mind for him. First, they moved him to the starting rotation after spending his time collegiately and much of his first year of professional baseball in the bullpen. Second, they wanted Tate to work on a changeup to complement his fastball and slider.
Tate’s season got off to a rocky start as he ended up on the disabled list with a strained hamstring after his second start of the season. The Rangers had also changed Tate’s mechanics which led to a drop off of velocity. His fastball that topped out at 98 was suddenly clocking in the low 90s. “There’s was something I was doing mechanically that threw everything off,” Tate had said about the change in velocity.
Tate went 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 17 games with Hickory, 16 of which were starts. In 65 innings, Tate struck out 55 and walked 27 batters allowing 39 runs, 37 of which were earned.
When Tate was traded to the Yankees on August 1, he was assigned, along with Hickory teammate Swanson, to the Charleston RiverDogs. With Charleston, Tate was put back in the bullpen, and his velocity returned. He was hitting 97 on the radar gun, and his stuff was electric.
In seven appearances, Tate pitched 17 and one-third innings, striking out 15 and walking six. He allowed ten runs, but only six of those were earned, ending up with an ERA of 3.12.
The Yankees sent Tate to the Arizona Fall League after the RiverDogs season had ended where he solidified his standing as a top pitching prospect. Against other top prospects, Tate appeared in six games, pitching nine and one-third innings striking out 11 batters and allowing just one hit. He allowed four runs, all of them earned, calculating to a 3.86 ERA.
Tate is a hard throwing righty who relies on his velocity to get hitters out. Tate’s fastball registers in the high 90s, reaching 97 mph during his stint with Charleston. He’s working on a changeup to balance his slider, which registered at 87 mph on the gun, and curveball. The movement on all his pitches is what he relies on to get batters out, but he does need to command those pitches better as he’s had issues with bases on balls. His 1.07 WHIP during his Arizona Fall League season was a step in the right direction.
Yankees general manager confirmed that the Yankees are looking to move Tate back to a starter for 2017. This will most likely result in Tate at least starting off 2017 in Charleston. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Tate start at Tampa if he has a strong spring.
Tate has been a reliever in college and most of his time in the minors. It may be tempting to put him back in the bullpen if he struggles out of the gate starting. The Yankees need to give him time to develop as a starter and give him every opportunity to harness his control and command to become a front line starter.
He’s proven he can be an effective reliever. He needs to show he can be a capable starter, but there’s no reason to rush Tate’s progress as he’s only entering his third year of professional baseball and will hit the age of 23 when the calendar turns to May.