School: University of California-Santa Barbara; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2; Weight: 200
Previously Drafted: N/A
Background: The biggest pop up guy over the past two years, Tate opened up his collegiate career in 2013 with four mediocre innings for the Gauchos, striking out one and walking a pair. UC Santa Barbara’s head coach, Andrew Checketts, gave the hard-throwing right-hander the nod as the team’s closer the next season, where Tate would post a 46-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 12 saves in 43 innings of work.
He would also earn an opportunity – and succeed – with Team USA last summer as well. In 11.1 innings, the 6-foot-2 hurler would strikeout seven, walk three, and allow one earned run as part of the club’s shutdown pen.
Heading into 2015 he was largely suspected to remain in the Gauchos’ bullpen, but an injury to one of the club’s starters opened the door – and Tate kicked the damn thing in.
In his first 12 starts spanning a little more than 88 innings, the former undrafted prep player has been nothing short of dominant: 92 punch outs, 26 walks, zero homeruns allowed, and a stellar 1.73 ERA.
Projection: An interesting tidbit:
- Since 1967, there have been just four players out of UC Santa Barbara drafted before the fourth round: Maury Ornest, Barry Zito, Chris Valaika, and Joe Gardner – all of whom were third round picks.
Obviously, Tate, who’s in the running for the top overall pick, will easily surpass them as the earliest Gaucho selection.
For his part, Tate offers up plenty of upside in the rotation to go along with an incredibly high floor as potential shutdown reliever. Because of his relative lack of his experience he has far less wear-and-tear than many of the other collegiate arms available, but that does come with a caveat of sorts: how will his arm/body respond to multiple seasons of 160+ innings?
It’s certainly encouraging that his strikeout rate during his season as UC Santa Barbara’s closer, 9.55, and this season, 9.37, are nearly identical. And while he lacks a lengthy track record against premium opponents, he has shined against Kentucky (7.0 IP, 9K, 2BB), Oregon (7.1IP, 8K, 4BB), Long Beach State (9.0IP, 10K, 1BB), and Cal State Fullerton (5.2IP, 8K, 4BB).
Tate looks like a potential upper-half-of-the-rotation caliber starting pitcher, maybe eventually peaking as a true #1.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
Floor: 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
Grade: First Round, Top 5