PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A little more than a month ago, when the minor league season was set to get underway, the headlines coming out of West Michigan were all about the exciting new talent in the lineup.
The West Michigan Whitecaps‘ roster includes several top-20 prospects within the Detroit Tigers organization. With the team now 17-13 and atop the High-A Central Division, those prospects have started to really show why they are ranked highly.
No one has shown on the offensive end more than catcher Dillon Dingler.
The first pick in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft is now in his sixth series as a professional player with the wheels churning faster by the game. He has the team’s highest batting average (.299), is tied for the most hits with 29, has driven in the second-most runs (21) and leads the team in home runs at seven.
The Ohio State product has found a groove in West Michigan, demonstrating the potential the Tigers saw in him.
“Over a 120-game season you’re going to have ups and downs. Right now, I’ve been seeing the things pay off that we’ve been working on in the cages,” Dingler said. “We have a great coaching staff that helps us see the things that make us better and right now it’s about moving in that consistent direction.”
Dingler’s defense was expected to be rock solid. He is a pure athlete. As a Buckeye, he played center field before making the switch to catcher, with a rare combination of both speed and a strong arm behind the dish.
As the highest drafted catcher since Detroit took Eric Munson in 1999, Tigers scouting had hope that Dingler could bring it with the bat as well. In college, he had an overall batting average of .276. Nothing too flashy, but in his final season before the pandemic shortened it, Dingler was hitting a red hot .340 through 13 games.
Whitecaps manager Brayan Pena not only likes what he sees from Dingler’s baseball talent, but also how he works with the pitching staff.
“(Dingler) has been able to really build relationships with our guys on the mound in a short amount of time, which makes him even more special,” Pena said. “We know how good his defensive ability is so we like him back there with (Eliezer) Alfonzo. He was gifted with a special talent to play this game and it’s fun to watch it come together for him.”
While Dingler was ranked No. 5 in the Tigers organization by the MLB pipeline coming into the season, most of the attention from the media was directed toward 2020 No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson. And rightfully so: When you’re taken that high, you’re clearly going to get more of the cameras pointed in your direction than others on the team. Torkelson got off to a slow start and has now started to heat up, with four home runs since May 22 and raising his average to .258.
Dingler, however, has been showing his power and hitting ability from the start. He is now getting mentioned a lot more when the Whitecaps name is brought up. In the last two six-game series alone, the Whitecaps starting catcher had at least one hit in nine of the games, posted multi-hit games five times and homered in four of them.
Last week alone, Dingler went 11-of-22 (.500) with two home runs, eight RBIs and five runs scored. It resulted in him being named the MiLB High-A Central Player of the Week.
For Dingler, everything is starting to come together.
“The season is a grind and I don’t even know how far into the season we are yet because I’ve just been having fun,” Dingler said. “I’m figuring out the little things along the way that will help me out in the long run and that’s huge. We have a great team and group and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
While Eric Haase is a great local product story in Detroit right now and Grayson Griener is battling injuries, what Dingler is doing in High-A ball isn’t going unnoticed.
The Tigers envisioned this for their top second-round pick. He believed in himself to succeed at this level. Now, the Whitecaps fanbase is starting to take notice — so much so that his nickname “Dillon Dingers” has become popular on social media. It’s catchy, and if his play keeps going at this rate, Tigers fans will know it, too.