I’ll openly admit it. When it comes to Minor League Baseball, the least I know about any of the leagues is probably the Midwest or the Texas Leagues. Unless a player is an elite Top 100 prospect, it takes a lot to catch my eye. That’s what Ryan Dull has done, so I decided to do some research.
As I’ve explained before, I live in the Southeast, so when it comes to some of these under the radar guys, I unfortunately have to rely solely upon scouting reports of others and any video footage I can find on the player. When it comes to Dull, there are positive write-ups a plenty.
Don’t let his last name fool you as Dull has been anything but for pretty much his entire professional career. The now 25-year old righty was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2012 draft out of UNC-Asheville by the Oakland Athletics. He flourished in his half season debut on two different rookie levels going 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA and going 5-for-6 in save opportunities over 21 combined appearances.
Dull would climb three levels in his sophomore season. When he reached the Double-A Midland RockHounds, he would struggle adjusting for the only brief time in his career. He has been one of the best relievers in the Texas League for the past two seasons.
He registered his tenth save of the season on Wednesday and that’s when I saw his stat line.
3-1. 0.44 ERA. 0.85 WHIP. .167 opponents batting average against. 47 strikeouts and 11 walks over 41.1 innings. And a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunites (As of Wednesday July 15th).
Those numbers are what many would call insane. So why has he been stuck in Double-A for more than two seasons now?
THE NEGATIVES: Dull is another one of those diminutive pitchers, standing at just 5 foot 10. That usually doesn’t translate well to Major League success, but isn’t the ultimate indicator of stuff. It often simply means that there isn’t a lot of power behind the pitches, which unfortunately holds true with Dull.
The Oakland As also seem to have a bit of bullpen depth. Currently Ryan Cook and Phil Coke are amongst two names with big league experience who patrol the Nashville Sounds bullpen at Triple-A.
There is also a glaring difference in his right handed and left handed splits. Righties are batting .104 against Dull, striking out 28 times in 77 at bats. Lefties are hitting .239, striking out 19 times in 67 at bats.
Another glaring disparity comes when he faces batters with less experience than he has as opposed to older players with more experience. He dominates younger players — obviously they are the majority when Dull has spent the better part of three seasons in Double-A — to the tune of a .139 batting average. Older hitters, although an extremely smaller sample size, are hitting .276. This doesn’t hold a lot of water when it comes to long term success, but perhaps it hints that one can "figure Dull out".
(Below: Not the best footage, but here’s a three pitch strike out last season of Rangers prospect Ryan Rua)
THE POSITIVES: Dull now has a 0.43 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP after picking up his 11th save Friday night, and one thing is for certain. Dull has very good command of his pitches. He works three pitches and although that fastball isn’t going to blow anyone away, it has been known to have a little sink to it, eluding hitters.
His other two pitches — a change up and slider — are also tricky because, like his fastball, they have late breaking action. The two out pitches — although the slider is still reportedly a work in progress — are deceptive as he releases both on the same plane as his fastball.
Obviously, Dull has been lights out this season, but when the few runners he allows on base get aboard, he seemingly becomes more dominant. Of the 58 batters he has faced with runners on this year, 10 have reached base, none have scored. He has allowed a .096 batting average against with runners on, while striking out 20 and walking five.
Dull has improved tremendously since that late 2013, early 2014 blip on the radar when he was first promoted to the RockHounds. His sequencing is much better and his command is impecable. Does that man I think he is the future closer of the Oakland As? By no means, but surely he is going to be in Nashville sooner than later. He may never be a household name or one of MLB’s dominant relievers, but Dull’s progression seems to hint that he could contribute to a Major League bullpen at some point down the road.