Taking the ball in the latest C’s Chat is 2022 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Chad Dallas.
Rated as the 117th best prospect by Baseball America heading into the 2021 draft, the 22 year-old righty from Orange, Texas was taken 121st overall by the Toronto Blue Jays out of the University of Tennessee.
Dallas wound up signing for $497,500, which was above the allotted slot bonus of $473,700 for the 121st pick.
A two-sport athlete who also played football at West Orange-Stark High School, Dallas won a number of awards including Orange County Most Valuable Player honours as a senior in 2018 after allowing just four earned runs and batting .410.
The 5-foot-11, 206-pound righthander went on to pitch for Panola College in the junior college ranks in Carthage, Texas, the same place his father Tony Dallas pitched. Chad dominated with a strikeout rate of 16.8 batters per nine innings, sitting down 71 hitters in 39 innings of relief with the Ponies in 2019.
The bullpen was where Dallas was supposed to be in 2020 with the Volunteers but an arm injury to eventual 2020 Chicago White Sox first-round pick Garrett Crochet opened the door to not only a spot in the Vols rotation but an assignment as the Opening Day starter. He pitched five shutout innings against Western Illinois on Valentine’s Day and struck out eight over five innings. Tennessee coach Tony Vitello lauded Dallas afterwards, saying, “This guy has a commanding presence, the guys rally behind him, and this might be a long-term answer opposed to a short-term answer”. Dallas proved Vitello right by earning a win against number-one ranked Texas Tech in the Round Rock Classic on February 21. The younger brother of Lamar University pitcher Jack Dallas was 3-0 with a 2.53 ERA before COVID cancelled the season. Chad was named to the 2019-2020 SEC (Southeastern Conference) First-Year Academic Honor Roll.
Dallas set the tone for his 2021 season by no-hitting Georgia Southern February 19 into the seventh before giving up two runs but that was enough for him to pick up the victory. He went on to win 11 games in total, getting win number 10 in SEC Tournament play against Mississippi State May 27 with six innings of one-run ball. His 11th victory helped the Vols get to the College World Series by striking out 12 in a win over Louisiana State in the Super Regional opener.
Winning 11 of 13 decisions with a 4.18 ERA and striking out 122 batters in 103 innings, Dallas was named an ABCA/Rawlings Second Team All-American and First Team Southeast All-Region.
Save for a few innings in instructional ball, Dallas did not make his professional debut until this season with the Canadians. It was a debut to remember as he overcame a leadoff walk by pitching five perfect innings and striking out eight to earn the win in Tri-City April 13. That earned him the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week Award.
Dallas has had his ups and downs but he did put together 10 shutout innings over three starts to begin the month of May with 13 strikeouts against seven walks.
Baseball America updated its prospect rankings of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system, placing Dallas at the Jays 19th best prospect.
“Dallas is an athletic pitcher, with an up-tempo delivery, and a smooth motion toward the plate despite some effort due to the pace. He delivers the ball from a high three-quarter slot, with a short, fast arm action, a heavy drop and drive operation and a strong leg block, that portends potential velocity gains to be had. Dallas works off of a four pitch mix that features above-average spin. His four-seam fastball has moderate hop, sitting 91-94 mph, touching 96 mph at peak, and is used primarily to set up his trio of secondaries early in counts. His horizontal breaking slider has good velocity sitting in the mid-80s, touching as high as 89 mph, and is his best swing and miss pitch by a wide margin. He shows excellent command of the pitch, and can throw it for strikes or exaggerate the shape to induce chases off the plate glove side. His low-80s curveball is used interchangeably with his slider, featuring 11-5 shape and heavier downward drop than his slider. The pitch is his primary secondary against lefthanded hitters, and is an effective, but not overpowering offering. He throws a low-90s cutter that produced good results in limited 2021 usage. Dallas has all the ingredients of a potential back-end starter, with upside to add more velocity to his fastball. Excellent feel for spin, and command of his secondaries drive his profile.”
C’s Plus Baseball spoke to Dallas during the team’s homestand against Spokane. This interview has been edited for clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball – Let’s take it back to junior college. You had an outstanding year with Panola College, and it landed you a spot with a Tennessee. Talk about your college career and how that all started for you.
Chad Dallas – I started out at Panola Junior College. Not a very highly scouted kid in high school but I knew I wanted to keep playing and got my opportunity with Panola. And with some hard work and my body kind of maturing, some more finishing up, it helped me out to having a good season at Panola. And then from there, even more hard work and even a little more body maturing and stuff as well as a great coaching staff and support system at the University of Tennessee helped me to get here. But yeah, it was a little different journey than some people with one year at juco and then to Tennessee but it was definitely the right choice.
CPB – Your Dad pitched at Panola and your brother also pitching in college baseball. How much did their guidance help you out?
CD – It helped me a lot, especially with my Dad. He helped me and my brother out with pitching and, you know, sports and life in general. He was a really good baseball player and we’d never got to watch him play obviously but all of his friends from when he grew up there. It was all they could talk about when we played and was kind of bringing up stories about when he played. And so that was really cool to hear. And then just helping guiding us through the journey of being the scholar-athlete or just kind of becoming a man was really cool and it helped. And then seeing my brother play, he played football and baseball at Lamar University, so that was cool watching him juggle being a football player, a baseball player, and then studying to be an engineer. So it was cool to kind of watch him juggle all that. And it just made me want to be just like those guys.
CPB – I understand you played a little bit of football yourself. Of course, it’s Texas, everybody knows about Friday Night Lights, but what was that like playing baseball and football growing up?
CD – It was fun. I played up until it was high school and then my freshman and sophomore year, I took some time off to just focus on baseball. And then my junior year was my brother’s senior year and he had played his whole life. So I told myself that I was going to get back into football to play with my brother. They didn’t have a kicker so I just kind of pulled up some YouTube videos and taught myself how to kick. I wasn’t in that big of a role for the team, but it was fun to be there with my brother and all of our friends that we grew up with. Just a fun experience with how big it is in Texas.
CPB – Now were you kicking field goals or was it punting?
CD – Both. Yeah, I tried to do as much as I could since I didn’t get to do too much.
CPB – So you get to Tennessee and you had a terrific season going to the College World Series. What was that all like for you?
CD – It was awesome. At first I was, you know, kind of not really nervous, kind of more anxious to get with the team and everything. And this goes back to COVID year when I first appeared at Tennessee and had exit meetings after the fall. Coach Vitello and Frank Anderson, they told me that I was going to be a relief guy, closer maybe, that sort of deal but I was going to be in the mix. So spring rolls around and our supposed to be Friday night guy feels a little tender in his throwing arm. And so they wait him out, let him heal and don’t want to push anything at the beginning of the season so then they shove me in the Friday night spot and that’s kind of where it started. And so I just took that with as much as I had and just tried to do the best I could for the team. The support system there and the coaching, it wasn’t too hard to go out and play for the guys next to me. We knew we were going to be good. Didn’t know we were gonna be maybe that good but we just kind of started playing together and everybody and everything started to kind of just add up perfectly and we made a good run. Didn’t really finish how we wanted it, but it was, looking back, maybe I would change winning the national championship, but definitely, it was a blast. And the fan base for Tennessee, Vol Nation, is unreal. So like getting to experience that with them, it’s the first time they’ve been back in forever. So it was cool to give them that experience and then get the experience with them as well.
CPB – So the College World Series experience, it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime thing. How can you compare that to anything you’ve been through before?
CD – I don’t know if I really can. I played in front of a lot of people for state championships in football, tons of people in Texas and played in front of a lot of people in college baseball in general, just regular games. And then, you get ready to the big games. There’s so many people and then you show up to the College World Series and our coach had actually told us, ‘Before you go out there and start doing anything, make sure you look around, take it in and then clear it.’ And he was right because you go out there and there’s 25,000 people watching you, surrounding you. So it was almost surreal. It was an awesome experience but very unexplainable. I would say that experience is kind of like the draft process. When you see your name. You talk about how cool it is but it truly is unexplainable.
CPB – So you get drafted by the Blue Jays. How did that all go? Did you have a draft party or anything like that?
CD – Yeah. I had a draft party with friends and family back in Orange, Texas, my hometown, a lot of people there. We had an idea of when my name would be called but me knowing how the draft goes, I was trying to keep everything out. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, but my (advisor). And so I did not hear from anybody until my (advisor) had called me. And then he told me that we had a deal with the Blue Jays. With as happy as I was, my heart like almost sank because of how it was just finally one of those moments where you kind of just sit back and you’re like, ‘Okay, like it happens.’ And so it was really cool and getting to share it with my parents, my siblings, my friends, and other family, it was really awesome. And then I talked to, I think it was (scout) Nate Murrie or (director of player development) Joe Sclafani. In the moment, I don’t remember who called me but I know it was somebody obviously with the Blue Jays and we talked a little bit and it was awesome, it was awesome.
CPB – Did you have any idea the Blue Jays were interested in you before the draft? Or did you think maybe another team was going to select you?
CD – I had met with the Blue Jays in the fall meetings over Zoom and stuff. But like the last two weeks before the draft, anytime somebody, a team would try to talk to me, I would send them straight to talk to my (advisor) because I didn’t want to put any false hope in my head of when I was going go or stuff like that. And so I didn’t really talk to many people but I didn’t really have an idea of who it was going to be. The Blue Jays weren’t going to be like my number one (team) of thinking like, ‘Oh, that they’re for sure picking me.” So I didn’t know (beforehand).
CPB – You didn’t pitch professionally last year but how did you prepare heading into 2022? What did you work on?
CD – I stayed at the complex in Dunedin, Florida and worked on getting stronger, staying in shape and building arm strength. And then I pitched about four innings in instructional ball, and that was just kind of like an introduction, you know, it doesn’t really count, but you’re still competing. I just worked on some pitches, trying to make some things better, making sure I was moving well and staying strong as well. And that kind of carried over through the off-season, just trying to stay strong and being able to move well and work on different pitches such as trying to add a changeup and then trying to keep the other pitches sharp,
CPB – Talk to me about your pitching repertoire. I’ve heard fastball, I’ve heard cutter, I’ve heard slider. What is your pitch mix right now?
CD – It’s a four-seam (fastball), a slider, a curveball, and then a changeup.
CPB – Your slider. Would you consider that your best off-speed pitch?
CD – Yes, I would. I would definitely say it’s the one I use the most. I think I’m definitely more comfortable throwing it than the curveball. Sometimes the hitter is on the slider, they’re expecting it so much that the curveball turns into my best off-speed pitch for the game. So it just kind of depends but I definitely rely on the slider a good bit.
CPB – Was there anyone who taught you the slider? Did you figure it out yourself or did someone show you a grip?
CD – I learned it from my pitching coach Frank Anderson at the University of Tennessee and it was actually supposed to be a cutter. It started out as a cutter because his son pitches professionally, Brett Anderson. He’s a lefty but we just flipped it so I used Brett’s cutter grip. It started out as a cutter and it just kind of turned into a slider. I was getting around it a little bit so yeah, Frank Anderson taught me that and worked with me on that for a really, really long time and helped me out a lot with that. Everything else came from my dad, Tony Dallas.
CPB – Your fastball, four-seamer, two-seamer or both?
CD – Four-seam. Every once in a while, I’ll kind of throw in some two-seams. I’m kind of working on that but four seams is definitely the one I use the most.
CPB – And the changeup, how do you feel that’s coming along? Do you break it out a lot during a game? Do you try to work in changeups when you can or is it basically just a feel thing?
CD -I’ve been working on it pretty hard. It’s definitely a lot better than what it has been in the past. I’ve thrown it in games, starting to throw it a little more. But like you said, it’s just kind of a comfortability thing and the only way to get comfortable with it is to throw it to people in the box. And so that’s just one little thing that I got to start doing is throw it more in the game and, you know, whatever happens, happens. I just got to get comfortable and have the feel for the pitch.
CPB – if you had to give a scouting reporting on yourself, how would you describe yourself?
CD – I would describe myself as really a “go at you” kind of pitcher. I always think that I’m never out of the fight. Whatever the situation is, with runners on or whoever’s hitting. I kind of walked a couple more people than I’ve usually done but you know, it’s baseball and it happens. I just got to a get in the zone and attack the hitters. What I’ve always been was attack the hitter, throw it in the zone a lot and if they hit it, they hit it.
CPB – I want to talk to you about grinding your way through outings. Spokane’s a perfect example. Two runs in the first, but you managed the last through four (innings). What did you take away from that outing after kind of a tough start, but things did get better in the end?
CD – Me and pitching coach Phil Cundari, we kind of talked about it. I think it was after the second (inning) that we really sat down and talked about it and he just asked me kind of what was going on, how am I feeling? And I said, ‘Yeah, you know, I was feeling good, but I was trying to do just do way too much.’ I was trying to make everybody swing and miss. I was trying to do it all on my own, make people look bad with a bad swing and that’s not really who I am. So I told him, I was like, ‘I was just trying to do too much, trying to run away from the barrels, trying to get all strikeouts in the first couple of pitches and that’s not possible.’ So after that, we kind of settled down and I realized that I just got to be myself and throw the ball in the zone and compete a little more. Stop trying to make everybody do what you want them to do. Just throw it in the zone. Let ’em hit it. Let your fielders work.
CPB – You certainly did that when you got the Pitcher of the Week award in Tri-City. You walked the first guy, then retired the next 15. How did it feel pitching out there? Did you just know you’re in the zone early on? Describe what it was like pitching that night?
CD – Yeah, it was good. The bullpen right before the game was bad. So it was kind of weird going onto the field and then I walked the first batter and I’m just like, ‘Oh Lord, this, this might get ugly.’ And then, kind of the same thing, I just kind of stepped off the mound and told myself like, ‘You don’t have to do too much. You just go up there and be yourself and throw your pitches in the zone.’ If they hit it, they hit it. If they score, they score but you got to compete. You can’t walk everybody. And that’s kind of what had happened. And after that deep breath, I kind of got back to myself and it worked out pretty good.
CPB – What’s it like pitching with a pitch clock? With these new rules, how has that been for you?
CD – It’s definitely different and new and it makes the games faster. I don’t think it’s affected me that much. Maybe after having to go cover first, I’m dog-tired trying to get back on the mound and stuff but it’s not that big of a deal. The only thing I would say is when there’s a runner on, I would like to have as much time as I’d like to hold or keep the runner on because whoever made the rules, it’s not their run, it’s mine. But at the same time, as a pitcher and even as a hitter, there’s so much thinking. You’re planning what you’re going to do, the next pitch or this pitch, that kind of thing. Things that you think about, what’s going to work here? What’s not? Where it needs to be pitch-wise? There’s pros and cons that can make the game faster. You have to have a plan way before that moment. So, you know, there’s pros and cons.
CPB – As far as a pitching routine goes, how do you approach when you know you’re getting a start? Take us through your typical day getting ready for getting on the mound.
CD – I usually don’t set an early alarm. I sit an “at latest” alarm and that’s just making sure I get all the sleep I can but not too much, you know, I don’t want to wake up drowsy feeling. And then after that, I just kind of lay around a little bit. Not too much because I don’t want to be laying around all day and feel drowsy as well. Just doing something, show up to the field, kind of relax, get everything set up, the uniform, everything’s ready. About an hour-and-a-half before, use the massage gun, start doing mobility, stretching things, to get stretched out my arm from our trainer Ro (Roelvis Vargas). And then come out here, nobody’s out here. I can do like my moving stretches and kind of get my mind focused and get my mind ready, locked in on the game out here by myself doing my own thing. And I think that’s usually when it all kind of settles in. That’s like, ‘Okay, it’s game day, I got to go.’ But like I said, I’m out here by myself trying to get my mind focused and getting it ready to play.
CPB – And when you get to the mound at Nat Bailey, what’s it like pitching here?
CD – It’s awesome. You know, you hear a lot of stories about minor league ball, no fans, and you play in front of 20 people which is kind of how Juco was but not at the Nat, the Nat is filled. I love it. I love the energy and it’s really awesome to see so many people out here supporting us. And even if it’s just supporting baseball in general. So it’s really cool to see everybody around here cheering us on. And I really like the sushi race but I like the field crew dancing. That’s my favorite part of every game. It’s awesome. You know, the crowd’s awesome. The atmosphere is loud. It’s hype, it’s fun.
CPB – Have you thought about maybe doing what Steward Berroa did? (Dancing with the grounds crew)
CD – I’ve thought about it but I can’t do it when I’m pitching. And I don’t know if Brent (C’s manager Brent Lavallee) would be too happy if I ran out there from the bench. So I’ll probably just maybe do it on the warning track over here. I’m probably not going to go out there like he did but he did well. He caught on very quick.
CPB – Final question. And really this should have been the first question, your nickname Cheese. I understand it has to do with a cartoon and the expression “Cheddar!”. Take us through it.
CD – So as a kid, A Goofy Movie, where Pauly Shore is the voiceover for Bobby. And to me, Bobby was the cool kid and so since he was the cool kid, I had to do with the cool kid did. And what he did was, he would say ‘Cheddar? Awooo!’ and then spray some canned cheese in his mouth. So anytime we had some spray cheese around the house, I would always kind of do that for my Mom and Dad and the family. Just try to make them laugh and stuff. And so it started out as Chad and Cheddar and then Cheese. So I’ve been called Cheese since I was about seven or eight years old. And now my parents don’t even call me Chad. They legit truly only call me Cheese. When I hear Chad, it’s kind of weird. Like it’s weird to answer when they call me Chad. I’m so used to being called Cheese by everybody so I’m glad it’s kind of stuck around.
- Full Name – John Chadwell Dallas
- Uniform Numbers – Wore number 36 at Tennessee
- Instagram – @chaddallas_
- Twitter – @chadwell__
- Mound Music – “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen
- Cheese Nickname – How the nickname was born
Thanks a million again to Chad Dallas for the latest C’s Chat and to broadcaster Tyler Zickel for arranging it.