The Pittsburgh Pirates signed infield Pat Dorrian as a non-drafted free agent two weeks after the amateur draft ended. He’s not your typical NDFA signing though.
Dorrian wasn’t eligible for the draft because he signed with the Atlanta Braves as a 12th round pick in 2014 out of high school, before deciding shortly afterwards that he wasn’t ready for pro ball. He left the Braves and went to college, though he was then ineligible for Division I ball since he already signed a pro contract. He attended Herkimer Community College for two years, then went on to Lynn University for the last two seasons. Dorrian put up big numbers there, posting a 1.035 OPS as a junior, followed by a .394/.471/.798 slash line in 49 games this year.
After the draft ended, most teams around baseball add a few players as non-drafted free agents. Those are usually players who were on their draft board, but below guys who they took in the draft. Dorrian obviously wasn’t on any draft boards, but teams were still interested in him. The Pirates just happened to be the first team to offer him a deal.
“I actually never really heard anything from the Pirates [before the draft],” Dorrian said. “Once the draft was over, about two weeks later, they gave me a call and asked if I wanted to sign. At the time I was talking to the Astros and the Mariners, however the Pirates were the first ones to offer me as a free agent. So of course I said yes and I couldn’t be happier to be here.”
Dorrian signed at Pirate City on June 20th and was assigned to the GCL Pirates, getting into his first game just two days later. That’s not really a great level of competition for a college player, but there was a need for players on that roster, and a chance for him to play regularly.
The Pirates actually signed four NDFA middle infielders at the same time, so Dorrian needed to do something to stand out from that group and he’s been hitting from the start. He had two hits, a walk and three RBIs in his pro debut. He hasn’t slow down since, posting a .289/.408/.464 slash line in his first 30 games, with 20 walks and 14 strikeouts. Dorrian led the entire farm system with a .943 OPS in the month of July.
I asked him about the adjustment to pro ball, which he had a brief taste of in 2014. He’s facing mostly pitchers 2-3 years younger than him in this league, so I was looking for a way to show the difference between college ball and lower level pro ball, besides the fact that most games in the GCL have more scouts in attendance than fans.
“The adjustment to pro ball hasn’t been too difficult for me,” Dorian said. “The game is definitely faster here, but that’s the way I like it. I’m also seeing a lot of fastballs here in the GCL so I can’t complain about that either.”
Another adjustment he made was on the defensive side. He mostly played up the middle in college and high school, with the occasional time at third base. He’s now a full-time third baseman, seeing just 21 innings total between second base and shortstop in the pros. Being over there full-time took some time to get used to, getting back into the rhythm of the position, but he appears to be doing well.
“This is the most third base I’ve played in awhile,” Dorrian said. “So I’ve been working on footwork because it’s different than it is up the middle. I’m getting comfortable over there and I’m really starting to like third base now.”
On the hitting side, there wasn’t any adjusting from his days at college. Dorrian had a good eye at the plate, so he’s able to draw his share of walks, but he’s also aggressive with pitches in the strike zone. He’s taking advantage of the high amount of fastballs he is seeing so far. The only thing the Pirates told him to do was remain aggressive at the plate and that has led to strong overall results.
For now, Dorrian is just enjoying pro ball and giving his best every single day, trying to help his team win however he can contribute. That’s what you always hope to hear from a non-drafted free agent, because they have a tough hill to climb. He will likely finish out the season in the GCL, which wraps up on August 25th, then return a few weeks later for the Fall Instructional League.