2014 Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: Shane Dawson – Honourable Mention


Back in the old days of Jays Journal Blue Jays top prospect lists, we used to run through fifty players rather than cutting it down to the more slimline thirty we now use.  The culling had its practical purposes as we were short of writers and just couldn’t get through fifty prospect pieces.  Saying that, the shorter list is far more realistic, as, when you’re getting down to prospects thirty through fifty, you’re often just throwing the proverbial crap against the wall and hoping it sticks.

Dawson focuses pre-game (image courtesy of Charlie Caskey)

That’s not to say the Blue Jays don’t have more than thirty prospects, and with five Jays Journal staffers submitting lists this year, there were some names that one or two of us may have had in our top thirty who were eventually pushed out.

Hence the honourable mention series, where we all look at a player or two that, individually, we thought maybe should have seen some top thirty action.  It also gives us an opportunity to delay the start of the actual thirty until after the winter meetings when we all hold our breath, cross our toes and fingers and hope against hope that the system isn’t gutted again.

Name: Shane Dawson
Position: Left Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 09/09/1993 (20)
Acquired: 2012, Drafted in the 17th round, 535th overall
High School: Frank Maddock HS, Drayton Valley, Alberta
College: Lethbridge Community College
Height/Weight: 6’1”/180 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/L

Awards and Accomplishments:

August 2013 – Northwest League player of the week

Canadian College Baseball Conference 2012 Second Team All-Conference

2012/13 Stats and Analysis:

I’d always assumed that Dawson was the only alumnus of Lethbridge Community College and the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs to be drafted, but that just goes to show you what assuming does.  It makes an ass out of me.  Shane was the tenth member of LCC to be drafted.

The left-hander signed quickly after being taken and was in Dunedin two days after his draft date.  His pro career thus far has gone rather swimmingly.  Looking at the numbers above, the improvement of his SO/BB ratio as he’s advanced through the system has been especially impressive.  The sample size is small but if you arbitrarily choose ten as the minimum innings pitched he ranks in the top ten for the Northwest League in SO/BB and FIP with his 1.38 mark.

Essentially he didn’t hurt himself, with few walks, zero home runs allowed, and a BABIP against of .386.  He gives up hits, but according to the numbers they don’t do a lot of damage.

A late season shoulder/elbow injury limited his innings somewhat.  He was due to head to instructs but from I can gather, the injury put paid to that, however I am trying to get confirmation.

(and confirmed….

This tidbit may not matter to some, but Dawson was also a decent outfielder in high school and is a plus athlete.  I saw him make two of the better plays off of the mound that I’ve ever seen, ranging to his right to field a bunt on one knee before spinning and firing to first.  That sort of athleticism will only help as he moves forward.

Delivery Mechanics:

Apologies for the short video, it was all I could find.  It does give a decent idea of his delivery though, despite the age and length.  Dawson works from a 3/4 arm slot with a smooth repeatable delivery.  His high leg kick and downward drive enhances the deceptiveness of the delivery.  I sat behind home plate for a couple of his Vancouver starts and can confirm that hitters see the ball very late.

He works quickly and uses a very similar arm speed for all his offerings which, combined with his delivery, all help to keep hitters off balance.

Pitch Arsenal Breakdown

Dawson throws his fastball from the upper 80s to early 90s.  One of the things that impressed me the most about Shane was his ability and willingness to change speeds with his fastball.  He never threw two pitches at the same speed, mixing up his two-seamer which had arm side tail and his four-seamer which he threw slightly harder.

His changeup clocks in between 77-79 miles per hour with good arm side run and sink.  He throws two breaking balls.  A curveball which he’ll, once again, change speeds with, throwing a slower back door offering to right-handers and a harder version which he’ll bury inside when ahead in the count.

He’ll also throw a slider in the low 80s, which, from what I witnessed, was his least effective offering.  He struggled to command it at times which would lead him to abandon it on the day.

Even though his fastball doesn’t have premium velocity, his ability to mix speeds and deceptive delivery keeps hitters off balance getting him ahead in counts where he then misses bats with his plus change and curve.

When he struggles it is usually because he has lost confidence in his fastball which will then throw off his arm speed, allowing hitters a better look at the secondary stuff.

Risk, and ETA

Dawson’s smaller frame means he’s isn’t ‘projectable’ like a Matt Smoral and therefore doesn’t carry the risk that he’ll never be able to combine his physical gifts with the ability to pitch.  The Alberta native can already pitch.  His risk profile is more like Taylor Cole‘s, the 2012 Northwest League pitcher of the year, who relied on an excellent changeup to consistently fool hitters in rookie ball.  Hitters in full season ball weren’t as easily fooled though, and Cole was found out somewhat in Lansing.

If Dawson’s injury has healed and he does get a full-season assignment, it will be very interesting to see if his deceptive delivery and array of velocities will continue to keep hitters off balance, despite the higher level.

For me, it’s Dawson’s intangibles which should see him carry on his success through Low-A and beyond.  Getting to see him live and having the opportunity to speak to him on occasion I got a feel for how competitive Shane is.  His singular focus during his warm-up and through to the start was unwavering.  The only person I would compare his mound presence to was fellow Canuck Tom Robson.

Must be something in the northern water.