October 27th, 2001 was an important day for baseball in the history of the state of Arizona. It was also one of the formative memories that cultivated Dylan File’s love for the sport.
File was already smitten with the game, beginning in tee ball at a young age where he was coached by his father. “My dad taught me how fun the game is and I never stopped.” The Lake Havasu City native attended many Diamondbacks games growing up, but none more grand than game one of the 2001 World Series. Five year old Dylan got to see his favorite player, Luis Gonzalez, tee off for a home run against Mike Mussina as his home state nine lit up the future Hall of Famer en route to a 9-1 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
He continued to grow with the game even as his family moved from Arizona to Utah when he was a teenager. He played on a competitive club team as well as his high school varsity squad and along the way, caught the eye of local division II Dixie State College. For File, it was a match made in heaven. “I was offered a scholarship and I committed right away. Dixie is in my hometown and it’s where I wanted to be. I had a great time at Dixie State. I was constantly surrounded by great people who knew how to win.”
File was an immediate hit at Dixie State, capturing the Freshman of the Year award after quickly establishing himself as the team’s Friday night starter. While his sophomore and junior seasons were still very strong statistically, in his mind they didn’t quite stand up to the same standard that File achieved during his first year in college. The inconsistencies were frustrating at times, but Dylan sees them now as an important part of his development. “Those years were a little harder to deal with, but in the long run I think that taught me how to deal with failure. I still had decent years that were good enough to get me where I am, but it really taught me how to keep going when it’s hard and keep working.”
By the time Dylan completed his junior season in 2017, he had already established himself as perhaps the top hurler in the history of the program. He was the school’s all-time leader in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts, and as that year’s MLB Draft approached, File knew his prospects for going professional were very real. “I talked to some pro scouts about getting drafted out of high school. I decided to go to college instead but I had an idea since then I could get drafted after my junior year.” The anticipation continued to build as the day drew nearer.
“The experience was amazing and terrifying and awful all at the same time. Everyone I talked to about the draft has me projected going earlier than I did. I was told by multiple scouts that the latest I would go would be the 15th. On draft day, I got so many calls from teams during the earlier rounds asking if I would sign if they took me. I always said yes but kept getting passed on. It was terrifying and upsetting watching all the rounds go by and not hear my name.”
Finally, after a bit of confusion, Dylan’s name was called at #624 overall.
“In the break before the 21st round I got a call from my scout who signed me, but he called from an Anaheim number. So I thought it was the Angels and I told him I would sign if they drafted me in the next round. The Angels had the pick before the Brewers and when they passed on me in that round I was pretty upset. But the next pick I heard my name called by the Brewers and it was an instead relief. All my family was there and they got excited for me and it instantly became an amazing experience.”
The decision about what to do next was a relatively easy one for the 6’1” right-hander. “Playing professional baseball has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I talked with my mom and my dad and they were extremely supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I talked with my coach Chris Pfatenhauer and he was always very supportive. So I signed.”
Now in his third year with the organization at age 23, File has stacked success while climbing up to the minor league ladder. Adapting to the professional game wasn’t too difficult for him, but he did quickly notice a stark contrast in the approaches of the hitters he started to face regularly versus what he was used to at Dixie. “The transition wasn’t bad. My first year in Helena was almost just like playing summer ball. The hardest part to adjust to was throwing everyday and pitching every five days. In college I threw every Friday so it made it a little hard. The biggest difference was the style of play. In college there was a lot of bunting and hit and runs. In pro ball everyone just wants to hit. Also in pro ball you can pitch to the inside part of the plate. Guys will get out of the way and you can use it to your advantage, where in college everyone is scrappy and wants to get on base anyway they can and will get in front of the ball.”
File has so far been a durable workhorse, finishing fourth on his short-season Pioneer League team in innings pitched in 2017 before leading the Class A Timber Rattlers with 136.1 frames last year. Now with the Class A-Advanced Carolina Mudcats, File appears to be taking a step forward on the mound. His earned run average stands at 3.73 through nine starts and 50.2 innings pitched, but that level of run prevention doesn’t quite do his actual performance enough justice. File’s 2.96 Field Independent Pitching (FIP) total ranks as the 16th-best among qualified starters in both Class A-Advanced leagues. Dylan is missing bats with greater frequency than he has in the past, racking up 51 strikeouts to this point in the season. More incredible, though, is the fact that he’s issued only five free passes on the year. His 0.9 BB/9 rate is the top mark in the organization currently, and his 10.20 K/BB ratio is nearly double that of the next best starter currently pitching in the minor leagues for Milwaukee.
“I throw a fastball (90-93), curveball (73-76), slider (77-79), and a changeup (82-84). My slider is my best pitch, I throw it like Trevor Bauer and it moves about 13 inches from right to left. My curve is almost a 12-6 breaker. When I got into pro ball I didn’t know how to throw a changeup so we spent a lot of time developing one. I don’t really have anyone that I model my game after, I would say I’m your average guy that attacks everyone fearlessly. I’m not afraid of getting hit which makes me go right after people. I hate walking people. I approach hitters with the knowledge of their weakness and how to get them out. I know where they do the most damage and avoid pitching there.”
“Milwaukee hasn’t ask me to change much. I still have the same delivery as I did in college, and the only other thing I’ve adjusted is my arm slot. I dropped my arm slot a little bit. I am into the advanced data and the Brewers have given me a lot of information that has helped me tremendously. It’s given me knowledge on how my pitches work the best. It’s really made the game different for me and helped me become a better pitcher.”
File believes that continued repetitions and the experience he’s building on the mound have helped him fine tune the minor tweaks that he has made with the help of the coaches and front office. He’s putting in plenty of work on and off the field to allow him to thrive in 2019.
“Over the last couple of years I have gotten a good feel and command for all my pitches and feel comfortable throwing all my pitches in any count. So I’m filling the zone with all my pitches and keeping batters in swing mode. And then I’m able to leave the strike zone when needed, getting them to chase and get themselves out. I’ve learned more of how to pitch and read swings. Getting better at setting guys up and getting them into counts I want them in. I am into reading scouting reports. I’m learning guys and their weakness and have been doing a good job of executing.”
Milwaukee has continued to develop Dylan as a starting pitcher so far, but he knows that this organization is on the cutting edge when it comes to redefining pitching roles. As long as he can provide consistency with his performances, he knows he’ll continue to get opportunities to shine. “I’m not too worried about staying as a starter. I think I’m a pretty athletic guy and I know the Brewers do things a little differently with their pitchers. So really I’m just trying to get better day by day and whatever they want me to do, I’ll do. My goal this year that I set for myself is to be consistent all season. Last year I would have a good game and then a terrible game. I want to be more consistent this year.”
“My long term professional goal is obviously to make it to the big leagues. That’s been my long term goal for as long as I can remember. I have no idea what that will look like as far as a timetable goes. I’m just working on me and becoming a better pitcher and teammate and whatever the Brewers want to do with me is their decision.”
Dylan studied criminal justice in college and if he weren’t pitching professionally, he would have already finished his degree by now and would be working in the field. “I’m not sure what that job would be, but that’s what I’m into.” But those thoughts are on the back burner for now as he continues his promising ascent through the minor leagues. #BrewersTwitter scout Toby Harrman suggests that with continued improvement, File could have number four starter-type upside in a starting rotation role. That would be a pretty terrific outcome for a player selected on the third day of the draft.
Regardless about how this journey ends up, Dylan File is thankful for the opportunities and experiences that he’s already received. His wife Jamie helps him remember that he is playing a game for a living, reminding him to keep baseball fun and exciting even when things can feel like a grind. “I don’t think I would be here without her.”
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs