Name: Tony Dibrell
Weight: 190 lbs.
Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, 4th Round (Kennesaw State University)
17 G (16 GS), 90.1 IP, 73 H, 27 R, 24 ER (2.39 ERA), 36 BB, 76 K, 3 HBP, 0 BLK, 6 WP, .285 BABIP (High-A)
9 G (8 GS), 38.2 IP, 51 H, 41 R, 40 ER (9.31 ERA), 21 BB, 37 K, 2 HBP, 0 BLK, 4 WP, .357 BABIP (Double-A)
Tony Dibrell impressed during his time at Chattahoochee High School, where he lettered four times as a varsity player, but he never garnered much major league attention and went undrafted in the 2014 MLB Draft. Though interested in attending a variety of schools with strong baseball programs, he made a verbal commitment with Kennesaw State University and went through with it, donning the black and gold of the Owls. He wasn’t exactly impressive in his first two years there, posting a 5.06 and 4.64 ERA respectively as a swingman, but he did show promise, as evidenced by his 83 strikeouts in 70.1 combined innings. After his sophomore year, he participated in the Cape Cod League and really came into his own, posting a combined 1.66 ERA for the Bourne Braves and the Chatham Anglers, earning All-Star honors. He returned to Kennesaw State riding on that success he had in the Cape Cod League and had the best season of his collegiate career. Taking the reigns as ace of the Owls pitching staff, Dibrell posted a 2.45 ERA in 95.2, the third-lowest ERA in a single season in Kennesaw State University history. He allowed 77 hits, walked 39, and struck out 103 batters. On draft day, the Mets selected him with their fourth-round pick, signing him for $380,000, $33,100 below slot value.
Dibrell began his professional career with the Brooklyn Cyclones, getting into 12 games with them in the summer of 2017. All in all, he posted a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings, allowing 19 hits, walking 8, and striking out 28. He was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies for the 2018 season and, somewhat surprisingly, spent the entire year there, not getting promoted midseason despite putting up excellent numbers. For the year, he posted a 3.50 ERA in 131.0 innings, allowing 112 hits, walking 54, and striking out 147- tied for the most in the South Atlantic League in 2018 along with Jhonathan Diaz and Spencer Howard. He got that promotion to St. Lucie to start the 2019 season and was even better, posting a 2.39 ERA in 90.1 innings, allowing 73 hits, walking 36, and striking out 76. Unlike the 2018 season, he was promoted midseason, getting sent to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in mid-July, but things went disastrously wrong for him in the Eastern League. In 38.2 innings, he posted a 9.31 ERA, allowing 51 hits, walking 21, and striking out 37.
Dibrell throws from a high three-quarters arm slot. His delivery is a bit violent and he is not always consistent with his mechanics, leading to control issues. The ability to command his pitches has given Dibrell trouble throughout his collegiate and professional career, but when his mechanics are on, he is able to spot his pitches and harness the full extent of his stuff. His fastball generally sits in the low-to-mid-90s, and while the pitch doesn’t have too much movement, it is heavy with sink, especially when thrown down in the zone. He complements his fastball with a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. His slider is generally considered his best secondary, an above-average pitch sitting in the low-80s with hard biting action, generally used to get swings-and-misses from right-handed batters down and away. His change-up is considered just as good as his slider, but he throws it much more sparingly. It also sits in the low-80s, showing good fade and tumble to the arm side, especially when thrown down. Rounding out his arsenal is his curveball, a pitch in the low-to-mid-70s with soft break used to keep hitters off-balance by changing their eye level.
It was a tale of two seasons for Dibrell. He was very good in St. Lucie and very bad in Binghamton. As a college draftee who is a bit on the older side, that’s a bad sign. Still, we haven’t gotten reports of a loss of stuff, so I’m willing to chalk it up to a few bad months after being promoted midyear and adjusting to a new league and coaching staff. I’m higher on Dibrell than most, and he’s lost a little of his luster, but I still feel there’s still major league upside there.
Steve talked me into buying into Dibrell heading into the season, but the right-hander was a big disappointment. He was unable to carry his exceptional strikeout rate to St. Lucie, and walks became a huge problem for 40 innings in Binghamton. Dibrell is now 24 and stumbled badly in his first taste of the high minors. His awesome 2018 is close enough that there’s still hope, but I wonder how much longer Dibrell will be allowed to develop as a starter before the Mets attempt to maximize his utility in a bullpen role.
While Dibrell’s 2019 season got off to a very good start in the Florida State League, he struggled mightily after a mid-season promotion to the Eastern League. Dibrell was the anchor of the St. Lucie rotation for most of the season, posting a 2.39 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 36 walks in 90.1 innings pitched across 17 games. From there he was promoted to Binghamton, where he generally struggled, posting a rough 9.31 ERA in 38.2 innings pitched in the high minors. While he generally struggled at run prevention, Dibrell did strike out almost a batter per inning after the promotion, although the increased strikeouts did come with an uptick in walks. It’s likely that Dibrell gets another shot at mastering the Double-A level in 2020, and if he continues to struggle starting games for the Rumble Ponies, it may end up being the time to see if his low-90s fastball will play up in short bursts out of the bullpen.
Dibrell had a Jekyll and Hyde 2019 season. He started off very strong in High-A, posting a sterling 2.39 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) at St. Lucie. He got his control in order a little bit, posting a career-low 3.6 BB/9 in that span. It was going swimmingly for Dibrell, and then he got promoted to Double-A. He got rocked in Binghamton, posting a 9.31 ERA in 9 games there, which is about as bad as you can get. That makes him a hard one to judge, for me. The talent is obviously there, but it may be possible that his control issues finally caught up with him. Perhaps, if he struggles more, we see him switch to the bullpen to see if that is more palatable for him. He has a good fastball-slider combo, but if the rest of the profile lags behind a switch to the bullpen becomes increasingly likely as he gets closer to Queens.