Next up in our review of how the Brewers’ top prospects fared in either their return to baseball following the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic or in their first season of professional baseball, we take a look at a player that gets compared to Kyle Schwarber.
In what was one of the last “normal” June Amateur Drafts the world of baseball saw, the Brewers selected six-foot, 230-pound, switching hitting catcher/first baseman Thomas Dillard out of the University of Mississippi with the 163rd overall pick during the fifth round.
Here is our review of the 2021 season for one of the Brewers’ top prospects, Thomas Dillard.
Brewers Prospects Review: C/INF Thomas Dillard
After leading the country in home runs (16) as a senior in high school, back in 2016, Dillard committed to the University of Mississippi, where he hit for a lot of power in the Southeastern Conference. He hit a .286/.419/.505 slash line along with 31 homers in three years with the Rebels, according to his profile on MLB.com.
Only getting to play in part of the 2019 Minor League season, Dillard stood out in his short time with the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He wound up hitting .246/.398/.386, while smashing six home runs in 51 games.
Where he played on the field was a bit of a question mark for the Brewers as he appeared as the Timber Rattlers’ first baseman during most of his time, along with an occasional outfield appearance. His valiant efforts on the field earned him the Midwest Player of the Week twice, at the end of July along with the end of August.
Following his exceptional efforts in his inaugural season of professional ball, the Brewers were looking for him to take big leaps on his defensive side, specifically with his catching abilities as he was assigned to the Brewers’ alternate training site during the 2020 MLB shortened season. During his time at the training site, he caught a lot of the Brewers’ top pitching prospects.
During the 2021 season, Dillard saw most of his time at the first base position where he was able to take advantage of his offensive capabilities, earning himself a promotion halfway through the Minor League season.
During his first half of the season where he spent it with the Timber Rattlers, he smashed an impressive .245/.359/.472 along with hitting 16 home runs in 78 games and driving in 67 RBIs. There was no doubt that his performance was worthy of promotion to Double-A where he’d finish out the season with the Biloxi Shuckers.
Dillard played only a month with the Shuckers, where he totaled 90 plate appearances in 27 games. Although he didn’t smash the same amount of homers in his time, he was still very productive to get on base, walking 18 times along with gathering 23 hits. His success of a 2021 season was enough for him to be named a Brewers’ MiLB.com Organization All-Star.
Dillard is a prospect that intrigues me, as he resembles Schwarber quite a bit as he was a catcher who played outfield along with a mix of catcher. One of the biggest things about him is the power that everyone has been raving about along with his switch-hitting capabilities, which is another attribute that the Brewers have never seen a whole lot of.
MLB.com has him estimated to arrive in Milwaukee in 2023 which is very interesting. The Brewers have had their struggles with the first base over the years, as well as with catching until just recently, and this may be the guy the Brewers need to help them get over the hump. With first baseman Rowdy Tellez under control through 2024, along with Catcher Omar Narvaez with one year left on his contract, the Brewers could use his sweet-swinging, switch-hitting power in a variety of ways.
Now let’s say the Brewers extend Narvaez and Tellez is still on the team. Dillard could serve as a utility guy. Milwaukee could use him in the designated hitter spot as he has a lot of power or they could use him as an occasional backup catcher along with backup first baseman. This is a guy everyone should be more excited about, as he could make huge leaps this upcoming season.
As the talks to end the MLB lockout are nearing, stay tuned to hear more about how the Brewers’ top prospects either faired in their first season of professional ball or how they bounced back after having no 2020 Minor League season.