St. Louis Cardinals: Bullpen move was a blessing for Bryan Dobzanski

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 24: A general view of Busch Stadium during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 24, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 24: A general view of Busch Stadium during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 24, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

After spending a few years as a starter with mixed results, Peoria Chiefs pitcher Bryan Dobzanski made a move to the bullpen midway through 2017. It has paid off with a Single-A All-Star appearance, representing the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Bryan Dobzanski was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 18 out of Delsea Regional High School in Franklinville, NJ. He was a 29th rounder in the 2014 MLB Draft.

Pre-Draft Days

Dobzanski was well-known and very talented coming out of high school; he was a dominant three-sport athlete in football, wrestling, and baseball, and was declared 2013 Male Athlete of the Year by US Today High School Sports.

Armed with a fastball in the low 90’s, Dobzanski was a pitcher to be feared at Delsea. Despite missing most of his final season with a shoulder injury, he put together a 0.29 ERA and struck out 36 batters in 24 1/3 innings.  He also hit .333 and managed to lead the team with 11 stolen bases.

It wasn’t just baseball he was dominant in though, and the fact that Dobzanski was 42-0 and was never taken down in his final season of wrestling has its merits on the baseball field as well. Such a feat requires elite coordination, an explosive base, and a solid frame, which can all provide great benefits to a pitcher.

Starting Out

The St. Louis Cardinals saw him as a starter at first in part because of his solid frame. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds. Dobzanski has the build to be a starter, so that’s what he was for his first three-plus seasons in the organization. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t distinguish himself either. His initial stint as a starter with a 7-13 record, a 4.04 ERA, and a 1.41 WHIP.

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For a moment, it was fine. Then his age started to creep closer and closer towards the league average with minimal improvement, so a change was made midway through 2017. Finishing off the season as a reliever, Dobzanski went off during the his final 20 games of 2017 with a 1.98 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in 36.1 innings. It was a staggering improvement over his starter numbers to say the least, so the Peoria Chiefs opted to keep him as a reliever.

Transitioning To The Bullpen

David Allen of the Peoria Journal Star talked to Dobzanski in May about his feelings on the change, and his thoughts in retrospect. Here is what he had to say:

"“At first, it’s a bummer,” Dobzanski said. “It feels like a demotion so I was pretty upset about it. But two days later, I came out for my first relieving and I was like 5 miles an hour harder. So I was like maybe this is the right way to go about it. So I feel a lot better about it. Pitching-wise I’m playing better as a reliever so you can’t be disappointed or complain about the move that they made.”"

That extra velocity is a very important step for Dobzanski, as it takes his fastball from the high 80’s and low 90’s to showing flashes of mid 90’s heat. That can be the difference between having a major league viable fastball and needing to develop breaking pitches to succeed, and the boost has done wonders so far for Dobzanski.

With a decent amount of relief experience in 2017, Dobzanski came into the season firing despite his disappointment. He only gave up 1 run in April, and his pitches seemed to not only be more lively, but much more controlled. His strike percentage increased gradually, and his walk count dropped with it.

Dobzanski And The Fastball

His fastball velocity has been important towards developing other aspects of his game as well. He’s been striking people out at a much better rate, picking up 9.1 K/9 after never even sniff eight K/9 in his first four seasons. Additionally, Dobzanski’s BAA sits at a solid .231 after being in the .270’s and .280’s for most of his career. Even when batters make contact, they haven’t been able to make it solid or time it properly.

Batters have only hit the ball up the middle off of Dobzanski 17.7 percent of the time in 2018, compared to 25.4 percent in 2017. These balls seem to be going to the opposite field. The amount of balls hit to the opposite field off Dobzanski up to 44.7 percent from 32.5. This means that batters are later than ever on Dobzanski’s pitches, and they can’t square up for a ball up the middle or follow through to pull the hit out.

These are all signs that he is starting to outclass and grow out of Single-A. His diminished ERA and WHIP of 2.05 and 1.11 respectively are solid, but the ability to disrupt timing and make batters miss are more telltale signs of pitching dominance. He may not have done enough to prove himself yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Palm Beach or even Springfield to start 2019.

At just 22 years old, Dobzanski has plenty of time. The St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t see him for the next several years if he actually makes it to the big leagues. However, he is back on the major league track. He should be able to climb up the minor league ladder over the next three or four years while remaining young enough to be an under the radar prospect.