Rising from an afterthought trade piece to an MLB debut in less than a year, Kanas City Royals right-handed pitcher Dylan Coleman has rocketed through the minor leagues. Unlike his 100+ mph fastball, his journey to Kansas City was anything but meteoric.
Coleman, born in Potosi, Mo., was a two-sport athlete for Potosi High School, excelling in basketball and baseball. He caught the eye of Missouri State baseball coach Keith Guttin, who immediately saw Coleman's potential during his junior year.
“I called our pitching coach, Paul Evans, from the game and said, ‘You need to see this guy as soon as possible,’” Guttin said.
Coleman continued to impress, and eventually committed to Missouri State for baseball. Going 6-4 with a 4.98 ERA as a freshman, he dazzled with his velocity and strikeouts. He only improved during his sophomore and junior seasons, reaching 11.3 K/9 during his junior year. Coleman touched 97 mph in a game against Dallas Baptist, according to coach Dan Heefner.
His increasing velocity and raw athleticism piqued the interest of major league scouts in 2018, including the Royals', according to The Athletic's Alec Lewis. The San Diego Padres ultimately selected Coleman 111th overall in the 2018 draft.
Following the draft, he posted solid stats in Class-A, with a 3.18 ERA and 11.5 K/9 in 22.2 innings pitched. Coleman relied heavily on his four-seam fastball and slider combination to baffle hitters. However, his career trajectory took a nosedive when his pitch velocity inexplicably dropped. Bottoming out at 88 mph with his fastball, Coleman was understandably frustrated and confused with this.
“I had a little injury that I think affected my throwing,” Coleman said. “Nobody wants to sit out. I was trying to play through it when I maybe shouldn’t have. I got out of whack. I started to go through tough times … I was throwing absolutely max effort every time and it wasn’t coming out.”
In a time that saw his major-league dreams seem further and further away, fate found a way for Coleman. On Nov. 5, 2020, he was the player-to-be-named-later involved in a Kansas City-Sand Diego trade, that sent pitcher Trevor Rosenthal to the Padres and outfielder Edward Olivares and Coleman to the Royals. He was selected nearly three months after the trade was first announced, not surprising those around him. When the trade was announced, David Coleman said to his son "That's going to be you."
The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly halted minor league baseball, and the Padres had not invited Coleman to their alternate site. Coleman ended up playing in the CarShield Collegiate League, a semi-pro baseball league in O'Fallon, Mo. There, he linked up with an old friend who brought Coleman's arm back to life.
Forrest Herrmann, the former director of pitching development for Premier Pitching Performance (P3) in St. Louis, and Coleman had crossed paths back previously. Coleman started working with P3 after his freshman year at Missouri State.
In O'Fallon, Mo., Herrmann and Coleman met again while Herrmann managed in the CarShield Collegiate League. Coleman recognized Herrmann's expertise and asked for his help regaining his velocity. Herrmann obliged, examining Coleman's tape and finding the issues with his release.
“The way he was moving down the mound and utilizing his momentum,” Herrmann said. “that was then affecting a few things with his arm action.”
After extended training and drills in early 2021, Coleman saw his fastball come back, reaching 96 mph in a bullpen session. Coleman saw his prospect potential return with a new team and new season.
"It was just that, 'Wow,' moment kind of thing," Coleman said. "From there on, everything clicked."
Coleman split time between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, pitching 57.2 innings with a 3.28 ERA and 14.5 K/9. Racking up 56 strikeouts over 33 innings at the Triple-A level is no easy feat, and can be attributed to Coleman's slider. Paired with his returned fastball, Coleman uses an 88-plus mph slider to get the best of batters.
Fast forward to Sept. 20, where Coleman officially was elected from Omaha ahead of Kansas City traveling to Cleveland for a four-game series. He made his MLB debut the next day in relief of starting pitcher Danel Lynch. With two baserunners gifted to him, Coleman tossed a scoreless seventh inning, a great beginning to his major league career. He threw 20 pitches, including a 100.2 mph heater. With a 60/40 split between his fastball and slider, Coleman impressed in his debut.
“The guy is nasty,” Matheny said. “The ball was jumping out of his hand. He pounded the strike zone, 100 miles an hour at you. … Everything that we had seen on video and we had heard at the other levels where he has been, we got to see firsthand.”
While Coleman may not see much more action this season, his debut only increased his standing in the Kansas City organization. He is currently the 29th-ranked Royals prospect, with one of the highest-graded fastballs in the minors. MLB analyst Ann Rogers describes Coleman as "a potential back-end bullpen arm" following his promotion from Omaha.
With the imminent departures of relievers such as Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Greg Holland, Coleman would make an interesting innings-eater option. He is amongst the youngest relief pitchers on the active roster, at only 25 years old. Coleman could fill a void and, if successful, prove to be a steady presence as Kansas City exits its rebuild period.