Rays Two-Way Star Tanner Dodson Excelling For Hudson Valley
Wappinger Falls, NY – Playing two-positions at the professional baseball level is one of the most complex, strenuous things in the sport. The Tampa Bay Rays are doing a bit of a human experiment, drafting and signing various players who pitch and hit exceptionally. The Rays made two huge purchases on the first day of their last two MLB Drafts. Last year, they drafted Brendan Mckay out of Louisville with their first-round selection and signed him to a whopping 7.1 million dollar signing bonus. Their second round pick this season was another college two-way star Tanner Dodson, who signed with a bonus of $775,000 out of California University. He pitched and played first base in his three seasons at Cal. As a junior he batted .320 with 27 RBIs while posting a 2-1 record and 2.48 ERA in 40 relief innings pitched.
Dodson is currently playing in Wappinger Falls, NY for the Tampa Bay Rays Short Season-A affiliate Hudson Valley Renegades. He has been the biggest key to the team’s huge success and league-leading 40-27 record. He was also named to the New York-Penn League All-Star team. He is hitting .275 with seven stolen bases, 17 RBI and 46 hits in 42 games at the plate this summer.
“Staying aggressive and not letting too many fastballs go by. Just try to drive the ball,” is what Dodson thinks about when stepping to the plate.
On the mound, he is also excelling. In 8 games out of the bullpen, Dodson has only allowed one earned run and opponents are hitting an astounding .108 off of him.
“I’m just attacking the hitters. I’m going to go right after them with my stuff, throw strikes and let my defense work behind me,” Dodson told me when I asked him about his mental approach on the mound. He throws a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam, slider, changeup and curve, a very well developed and strong repertoire for a relief pitcher.
Developing a two-way player, and getting him playing time on the mound and in the batter’s box is often a struggle for organizations. But Dodson tells me that the Rays have created a very effective schedule which gives him the opportunity to do both.
“I pitch on a 7-day plan. I pitch every seven days throwing out of relief. They’ll give me a bullpen day in between (off day to throw a bullpen). Other than that I either play center or DH every day.”
Dodson grew up in a baseball family. His father played 10 years of professional baseball and taught him everything he knew about the game. The Rays rookie also tells me that his dad prepared him very well for the grind of professional baseball. Dodson was a pick to the Mets out of high school but turned it down to go to Cal. Dodson tells me he loves the Rays organization and is very thankful that they have given him the opportunity to play 2 positions. He also expressed how great a job they have done with players such as he and Brendan Mckay. With the few players that start off their career as two-way players, many struggle at the higher levels of the minors and stick with one position. When asked about that, Dodson told me that he is open to do whatever the Rays would like him to do.
To cap off my interview with him, I asked Dodson whether he would rather hit four home runs in a game or throw a no-hitter.
“I think just hit four homers… that would be cooler.”
I followed that up by asking him what his short and long-term goals are, and he replied by telling me…
“I want to be a big leaguer and have fun out here in my first season then just go from there.”