The Pittsburgh Pirates signed a large group of non-drafted free agents after the 2018 amateur draft. In that group was one player who wasn’t your typical non-drafted free agent signing. Infielder Pat Dorrian wasn’t eligible for the draft this year because he signed with the Atlanta Braves back in 2014. Dorrian quickly had a change of heart back then and felt that he wasn’t ready for pro baseball. He graduated college in 2018 and then showed over the next few months that he could handle the challenges of pro ball, giving the Pirates a player to watch this upcoming season.
Before he was selected in the 12th round by the Atlanta Braves, Dorrian put together quite a resume at Kingston High School in Kingston, NY. He was a three-sport star, with two years of varsity basketball, three years of varsity football, and three years of varsity baseball. He was an All-State selection at quarterback, the 2014 Player of the Year for his league in basketball, and yet baseball was his best sport.
Dorrian was watched by a local scout from the Braves numerous times over his last two years of high school. He didn’t know just how interested they were though, so being selected in the 12th round was a little bit of a surprise. Dorrian was picked on June 7th, signed 19 days later and spent just nine days with the Braves before he knew he had made the wrong choice to sign just before his 18th birthday.
“I decided to leave because I didn’t feel ready,” Dorrian said. “and I felt I needed college to develop more into a better player.”
In just a few months, Dorrian went from being in pro ball in Florida, to attending junior college close to home. Herkimer College gave him a chance to continue playing two sports. He had some offers in high school to play both football and basketball in college, but they all came from smaller schools and baseball was his main focus, so he turned those offers down. Going to Herkimer allowed him to play both basketball and baseball, and he did really well at both sports. Staying close to home was also a main selling point.
“When I decided to leave the Braves, I decided to go JUCO because I figured eligibility rules for JUCO are much more flexible” Dorrian said. “They weren’t too far from where I lived, so it was an easy place to visit and go look at. I ended up visiting and talking to the head coach Jason Rathbun and I really loved it.”
As a freshman at Herkimer, Dorrian hit .364/.480/.600 in 52 games. The team was a dominant offensive force in the league on their way to a 48-6 record. While those numbers look outstanding, his OPS was just average for the club, but it was well above average for the league. His team had a 33-game winning streak, which include a four-game series against Clinton Community College in mid-April where Herkimer outscored them 71-1.
During his sophomore year, the competition in the league was a little better. Herkimer still did great with a 34-11 record, but the offense dropped as the opposing pitchers were stronger. Dorrian hit .354/.412/.551, which was a dip from his freshman year stats, but this time he was above average compared to the rest of his team.
While he was playing baseball, he was also playing guard for the Herkimer basketball team during the winter. In ten games as a freshman, he averaged 10.8 points per game. That was followed by him helping the team to a 25-4 record as a sophomore, when he led the club with 14.0 PPG. Despite the success in basketball, Dorrian had no intentions of playing it at the next level. For him, it was time to concentrate on baseball.
Dorrian wasn’t draft-eligible during college. If he wanted to go pro, he would need to be signed as a free agent. The immediate question most in his situation would have is asking when would he be eligible to sign. Dorrian decided early on that he was going to graduate from college first, so signing a free agent deal prior to this past June had never crossed his mind. He did however run into one obstacle after his sophomore year that he didn’t anticipate.
Dorrian didn’t know that he wasn’t eligible to play Division I baseball, so when he verbally committed to St John’s for his junior season, he assumed that he would spend two seasons there, then explore his pro options. He found out during the 2015 Cape Cod League season that he would need to find another place to continue his college career.
“Once I found out I couldn’t go to St John’s, my roommate from Herkimer had committed to Lynn,” Dorrian said. “The head coach there, Rudy Garbalosa, was aware of my situation, so he called me and told me that if I end up not being able to go D1, they’re going to save me scholarship money. So once I found out I couldn’t go D1, it was a no-brainer for me to go to Lynn.”
Boca Raton, Florida is a long way from Kingston, NY, but Lynn University was a Division II school that had an excellent offer for Dorrian to play baseball and finish his education. During his junior season of college, he hit .372/.448/.587 in 50 games. It was another high offense place for Dorrian, who again stepped things up during his second season at a college. As a senior in 2018, he hit .394/.471/.798 in 49 games. He connected on 17 home runs in his final season of college ball.
Those results led to multiple teams contacting him after the draft, but the Pittsburgh Pirates were the first team to make him an offer, so he signed with them. He was playing GCL games within days and never looked back. Dorrian hit .328/.427/.511 in 40 games for the GCL Pirates, placing him third in the league in OPS. Those results led to him being promoted to Bristol in late August, where they had some remaining games after the GCL season ended. In his brief stay in the Appalachian League, Dorrian batted .367/.457/.667 in nine games. The late-season promotion made quite an impression on him, showing the work he put in had paid off.
“It meant a lot to me and it was a proud moment because I know how hard I’ve worked,” Dorrian said about going to Bristol. “However, I got right back to work. One thing for me is to never settle because there’s always room to improve with anything. I pride myself on never being outworked. So once I got to Bristol I continued to put extra work in and luckily I kept having success. Hopefully I can continue that this year.”
I briefly mentioned some summer ball action above for Dorrian, but I wanted to highlight it to show just how much time and effort he put into baseball. Besides the four seasons of college ball, with two years of basketball mixed in during the winter, he also played three years of collegiate summer ball. After his freshman season, he played for the Saugerties Stallions of the Perfect Game League, putting up a .685 OPS in 39 games. He was in the Cape Cod League in 2016, where he played another 30 games, followed by 39 games for the Plymouth Pilgrims of the New England Collegiate League during the summer of 2017.
If there was any question that Dorrian answered with his play in the GCL and Bristol, it was how he would adjust to wood bats in the pros. All three college summer leagues he played in used wooden bats and his OPS was just over .600 for the three seasons. He finished his first season of pro ball with a .971 OPS, second only to Jonah Davis among all Pirates in the minors.
Dorrian is currently at Pirate City answering another question about his game. The Pirates have him at a mini-camp for catchers to see if he’s able to handle part-time catching duties. He’s been told that he should expect to see plenty of time at third base, but adding versatility, especially behind the plate, isn’t a bad idea. His introduction to catching began during the Fall Instructional League, where he got some practice going through catching drills.
“After getting some catching experience at instructs, I realize that I want to be able to play multiple positions, not just infield,” Dorrian said. “I feel as if it will only benefit me, so learning to catch, and maybe even the outfield spots, will help tremendously. Catching camp was a great time with coaches and some teammates.”
It’s clear that Dorrian is an athletic player. You don’t make All-State at quarterback, lead a college basketball team in scoring and get drafted in baseball without a ton of athleticism. So you have to assume that he could basically play anywhere on the field. The Pirates had him almost exclusively at third base during the regular season, then back there again during instructs, so that appears to be the focus for now, but things can change.
Dorrian has a lot of experience with middle infield already, playing both shortstop and second base throughout high school. He also played shortstop for three years of college and one year of summer ball. Dorrian played third base his freshman year at Herkimer and again in the Cape Cod League. His other season of summer ball was at second base. So there’s both versatility in there, as well as some key defensive positions. Adding catcher to that gives him another possibility to get extra playing time.
I mentioned at the top that Dorrian isn’t your typical non-drafted free agent, but the Pirates are proving that point this off-season. He has been to Pirate City often since the Bristol season ended, which is usually something usually reserved for the top prospects. Dorrian also saw different treatment than the 2018 draft picks and other NDFA players in September. He was playing in exhibition games during the Fall Instructional League, when he wasn’t going through catching drills. All of the other new players went through a rookie camp, which consisted of off-field exercises and no game action.
Since instructs ended in early October, Dorrian has been back to Pirate City for a hitting mini-camp, another for speed and agility training, followed by his current stay there now for the catching camp. The camps are small groups, so you usually don’t see a player go three times. His current stay at Pirate City is giving him a chance to focus solely on catching with a group of nine other players who have experience at the position.
Not long after this current camp ends, he will be back there for the start of Spring Training for minor leaguers on February 24th, as he looks to earn a spot with the new Low-A affiliate in Greensboro. That’s always an interesting battle, as you have three levels of players trying to make the jump to full-season ball, while trying to decide whether someone who was at the level last year needs to repeat the league.
Dorrian certainly seems to have a chance to make that jump. He has shown excellent plate patience throughout his baseball days. The Pirates told him during the GCL season to be aggressive at the plate. He followed their advice, yet still had the pitch recognition ability to draw his share of walks when he has nothing to hit. He showed power as a senior in college and during his pro debut, plus we could see more power in the future. Dorrian is listed at 6’2″, 188 pounds, but he said that he’s bulked up to 210 pounds now, while still maintaining that athleticism. He was listed between 195-200 pounds in college, which makes that initial listed weight we saw in pro ball a little suspect.
On the defensive side, he has experience at three infield spots and he’s adding catching to his resume. He could probably play first base and corner outfield if needed, but right now the focus seems to be on developing him as a third baseman, while also giving him a valuable backup plan. Dorrian has a strong arm, which actually led to some pitching in both high school and his 2015 season of summer ball. He’s a decent runner, who made it a goal to contribute more on the bases. During his junior year in college he went 9-for-10 in steals, so it’s possible we see him running more this year. That added power/speed combo would make him a well-round player.
One of the interesting parts about him signing with the Braves and then deciding to return to school is what it did to his Rule 5 draft status. When a deal is voided by the team and then the player re-signs, even if they re-sign with the same team, that player immediately becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Dorrian was eligible for the Rule 5 draft this past December, though the Pirates protected him against the Triple-A phase of the draft, while leaving 16 other players unprotected. He’s going to be eligible each of the next two years as well, which won’t be true for any of the other college draft picks or non-drafted free agents signed in 2018. They all become eligible after the 2021 season.
It’s unlikely that he will be selected either of the next two seasons because that would require tremendous progress in a short time, but it’s still something you rarely hear about with baseball contracts. Pirate fans might remember losing lefty pitcher Wei-Chung Wang to the Milwaukee Brewers in December of 2013 after his first season of pro ball. Of course, that turned out very poorly for the Brewers, but no one expected it to happen.
The Pirates look like they made a wise move, scooping up Dorrian before any other teams made an offer this past summer. He’s an athletic player, with versatility and a great approach at the plate. He said he wasn’t ready for pro ball after he left the Braves, but four years and over 300 college/summer games, turned him into someone who excelled during his first run at pro ball, making him hungrier for more success in the future.