Dakota Chalmers Makes Up For Lost Time In Arizona
MESA, Ariz. — Dakota Chalmers’ smile and happy-go-lucky demeanor can sometimes give off the wrong impression regarding his attitude toward the game.
But spend just a little time with the Salt River Rafters righthander, who is set to start in the Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday, and it becomes clear how serious Chalmers takes his craft, and he has a pretty good idea of what he needs to do to take his game to the next level.
“Right now, there’s a big gap between my good and my bad outings,” Chalmers said. “It’s no secret that at the higher levels it’s how you can compete on those days when you don’t have your best stuff . . . just making those adjustments in-game, trusting what I have that day and not trying to do too much is something that’s key for me. I think I made huge steps in figuring it out, and going into next year I’m going to have a good start.”
A professional scout for a National League team who has followed Chalmers, 23, since the early part of his minor league career agrees, stating that the Twins' pitching prospect is extremely adept at assessing the game in a very critical manner and has always been eager to talk about pitching with those around him.
Chalmers has been working with three pitches—fastball, curveball, changeup—during his time in the Arizona Fall League. Both his fastball and breaking ball grade as well above-average pitches, with his mid-90s fastball drawing plenty of swings and misses, as evidenced by his 25 strikeouts in 17.2 AFL innings. An American League scout said that Chalmers' curveball may be the best in the league, but that he struggles with pitch selection. Chalmers will also need to improve his command to avoid an eventual move to the bullpen, according to the scout.
The command issue is not unexpected considering Chalmers is still recovering from the Tommy John surgery he underwent early in 2018 when he was still a member of the Athletics' organization. It's one of the main reasons Chalmers has pitched just 156 professional innings in five seasons since being drafted by the Athletics in the third round of the 2015 draft, signing for an over-slot bonus of $1.2 million.
Making up for the lost time is just one of the bullet items that Chalmers had on his agenda this fall.
“Just establishing a routine between starts,” Chalmers said. “Because when you’re in the rehab process from Tommy John, you get in this environment where it’s so easy to get in a (more structured) routine . . . Just getting in that in-season routine when you have to pitch different times in the day, or maybe there’s an off day so there’s another day you have to work into your routine.”
When asked what other improvements Chalmers had made this fall, Salt River pitching coach Jim Paduch noted that the 6-foot-3 righthander is learning to become "more efficient with his pitches."
“Obviously the stuff is going to play at any level, but more so striking and getting the breaking ball over early in the count, which he’s shown over the past couple of starts," Paduch said. "In his good starts, he can do that early.”
Chalmers was traded just a few months after his Tommy John surgery in 2018, heading to the Twins' organization in the Aug. 2018 deal that sent veteran reliever Fernando Rodney to Oakland. But Chalmers said he adjusted to his new organization quickly, simply transitioning from one rehabilitation program to another. He now believes his time spent recovering and away from the game was beneficial.
“The surgery really got my career headed in the right direction,” Chalmers said. “It put things in perspective. No matter what people say, you need to experience some things yourself, and I think that really put not just baseball but things (in general) in perspective. It helped me get more in touch with the support system that we all have, and it just sort of matured me.
“It gave me a new appreciation for the game that I didn’t realize I didn’t have.”
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— The Arizona Fall League championship game will be played at 11 a.m. MST on Saturday, Oct. 26 at Salt River Fields. The AFL East Division champs Salt River Rafters will host the West Division winners Surprise Saguaros. The game will be streamed live online at mlb.com.