COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WOOD) — When you attend Ohio State and end up playing a sport in the state of Michigan, there’s a fair chance you will get asked about it.
For Dillon Dingler, there were no exceptions.
He was asked at the Whitecaps’ Media Day if he had been joked with about being a Buckeye in the Wolverine state. His answer?
“I hate to say it, but check the record,” Dingler said. “It’s a lot of fun, and the (jokes) aren’t going away any time soon. That’s the last thing I’ll say about it, but I do enjoy it.”
Buckeye or not, there isn’t a Tigers or Whitecaps fan not cheering for him to become Detroit’s catcher of the future.
That is what the organization clearly believes he can be. Dingler was the top overall pick in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft. That’s the highest the Tigers have selected a catcher since drafting Eric Munson in 1999. He’s ranked 5th in the Tigers minor league roots according to MLB Pipeline.
He’s very athletic for someone who plays behind the plate, as he was a center fielder his freshman season at Ohio State. His arm from behind the dish is ranked above average, but it’s not just his defensive abilities.
With the bat in three seasons at Ohio State, he finished with a .276 batting average, with 50 RBI’s and 12 home runs. Maybe his most impressive stat as a young player is his plate discipline, where he drew 52 walks to just 59 strikeouts in 391 at bats, making his on base percentage .367. In his last season before the pandemic ended it, Dingler was batting .340 through 13 games.
When asked about the possibility of seeing Dingler in the outfield as a Whitecap, manager Brayan Peña was quick to end that discussion.
“There is a better chance you will see Brayan Peña in centerfield before you see Dillon out there,” Peña said jokingly. “He’s a hard kid to not fall in love with, he’s very coachable and we believe in his talent behind the plate. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of catchers and this guy is special, man.”
Starting in high-A baseball right out of college is similar to what some of Dingler’s West Michigan teammates are experiencing. The No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson and fellow second round pick Daniel Cabrera will also be playing their first season of professional ball with the Whitecaps.
There’s no rush to the process for Dingler. Right now, he’s happy to be with the team he’s on.
“Me and Spencer were both very lucky last season, still being able to play, while some others weren’t so lucky,” Dingler said. “We’re chomping at the bit and ready to get going, we want to take what we learned from all of these camps and get going.”
The Whitecaps have already began their season with an opening night loss 8-0 against Fort Wayne. Dingler logged his first hit by going 1-for-4 at the dish.
His ability to learn behind the plate that Peña mentioned will be key, as he tries to learn an entire new pitching staff.
Ideally, with the young corps of pitching the Tigers have acquired — with players like Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Franklin Prez — Dingler will be growing up with them, and that journey starts with his staff in West Michigan.
“Learning the pitchers and developing those relationships is one of the biggest things I am trying to do,” Dingler said. “Going into minor league spring training, you’re just trying to get guys names and pitches down. Trying to find out what makes them tick. It’s a long process, but we have a long season.”
According to Dingler, the relationships are already strong with this group of players, who are all very similar in age.
Now, the 22-year-old has the chance to show the organization what he and his teammates can do on a nightly basis.
“We are just ready to get out there and have fun,” Dingler said. “We are ready to play in front of real fans again and are ready for this week to get back on the field and show what we can do.”
Wolverine or Buckeye, you can count on any of those Whitecap fans to be rooting for the success of Dingler.