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Utah Scout Blog: Dixie State U (MLB Scout Day)


Jeff Scholzen
Utah Scouting Director

 

Today we dive into Dixie State U, the newest D1 program in the state, as they join the WAC this next spring. Dixie State held their annual fall scout day for MLB Scouts, and PBR Utah was there to cover it and highlight some of the players who may hear their names called in the 2021 MLB 1st Year Player Draft. 

The Trailblazers have a storied program, first at the JUCO level, where they were annual contenders for league and district titles year in and year out. Dixie State made it to the JUCO D1 World Series in Grand Junction, CO on 6 different occasions over a 16 year period, from 1989-2004 and were crowned NJCAA D1 National Champions in 2004. Their last year as a JUCO program was in 2006, as they made the jump to the NCAA D2 level the following year. During their 14 year D2 period, Dixie State made a seamless transition and were competitive right away. They had a run of 6 consecutive D2 regional appearances from 2012-2017, while being the host site on one occasion. A perennial top 25 program, they finished their final season at the D2 level in the CoVid shortened season of 2020, with a 15-3 record and were ranked #9 in the country when the pandemic hit. 

Dixie State produced 3 MLB players from 2000-2004, with Dixie State Hall of Famer, Brandon Lyon-RHP signing with the Blue Jays in 2000, after being named the NJCAA D1 National Pitcher of the Year. Lyon would make his MLB debut with the Jays against Cal Ripken’s Orioles on August 4, 2001, just 15 months after signing. He went 7.1 IP of 1 run ball, to get his first MLB win. Overall Lyon pitched 13 years in the show as a quality setup man for a number of clubs, and was a closer for 3 of those 13 years. 

The next big leaguer was Brad Thompson-RHP who was signed by the Cardinals in 2002. He made his MLB debut on May 8, 2005, spending 6 years in the big leagues as a starting pitcher and reliever. In the Double-A Southern League, Thompson fashioned a 57 consecutive innings scoreless streak, which is the 2nd longest streak in MiLB history. The streak was a Double-A record. Thompson currently co-hosts The Fast Lane, a sports radio show in St. Louis, on 101 ESPN and serves as a color commentator and analyst for Fox Sports Midwest on Cardinals telecasts. 

The last big leaguer was another Dixie State Hall of Famer, Brandon Kintzler-RHP, the ace of the 2004 national title team, as he pitched the title game, getting the win. Kintzler took a long road to get to the show, as he had some arm problems after signing with the Padres and was subsequently released. He resurrected his career after 3 years in the independent leagues. He made his MLB debut with the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept 10, 2010 and is currently a member of the Miami Marlins, recently finishing his 11th year in the big leagues. He has been primarily a setup man and closer throughout his career and was named to the AL All-Star Team in 2017. 

The next in line to potentially make his MLB debut, was the Trailblazers most dominant pitcher of the D2 era, Dylan File-RHP, from local Desert Hills HS in St. George, UT. File was drafted in the 21st Rd of the 2017 draft and was signed by yours truly. File has been a 2 time MiLB All-Star and was 2nd in the minors with 15 wins in 2019, between the High-A Carolina League and the Double-A Southern League. File was invited to the Brewers 60 man player pool in the shortened CoVid MLB 2020 season, and is 40 man eligible this coming November. It’s expected he will be placed on the Brewers MLB roster at that time. 

The previous two Dixie State coaches have impressive resumes as head coaches. 1st was Mike Littlewood, who won 563 games, won one national championship, made four appearances in the National Junior College World Series, and claimed eight league titles. Littlewood was named National JUCO Coach of the Year in 2004. Dixie State transitioned to the Division II level under Littlewood in 2007. Littlewood also served during this time as an NCAA basketball referee, working three NCAA Sweet 16s and two Elite 8s. After being a finalist for the BYU head coaching position in 2000, when Vance Law earned the job, Littlewood was hired at BYU prior to the 2013 season. 

The current Head Coach of the Trailblazers, Chris Pfatenhauer just finished his 8th season at the helm and has fashioned a 254–128 record, while leading his team to 5 NCAA D2 regionals, while winning the PacWest Conference title in 2014-2015 and was named conference coach of the year in those 2 seasons as well. Pfatenhauer took over at Dixie State, after spending 2009-2012 as an Asst.Coach/Recruiting Coordinator at the U Nevada Reno. Look for Dixie State to be competitive right away in the WAC, though they will be serving their first 4 years as a provisional D1 member and will not be eligible for postseason play until the 2025 season. This will give them time to build their roster and work their way into contending status over time. 

Dixie State plays at beautiful Bruce Hurst Field, named after the local Dixie HS legend and 1976 1st Rd pick. Hurst is a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. 

2021 Tyson Fisher, 3B/OF, R-R, R-SO, Dixie State U 

BACKGROUND: Fisher is an imposing 6-4 230 physical specimen, that was a decorated two sport athlete at local Dixie HS. A 3 time Utah All-State pick, who was voted the 2017-2018 3A/4A Utah Player of the Year and was the 2018 Utah “Mr. Baseball”. Fisher also led Dixie HS to back-back state titles in 2016-2017 and a state runner up in 2018. On the gridiron Fisher was a 3-time All-Region 9 selection and a 2-time all-state selection as a defensive end and punter. Fisher’s Sr. year, he led the state with a whopping 49.5 punt per/yards. At Dixie State, He owns a career .371 B/avg heading into his 3rd year for the Trailblazers, and was voted the 2019 RMAC Freshman of the Year. 

Built along the lines of Kris Bryant/Bobby Dalbec, Fisher is blessed with natural strength for power, a body built for leverage and the ability to run for a big guy. The offense is the calling card, as he has a semi-wide square stance and holds the bat high and over his back shoulder. A roll of the hands with a med knee kick gets him into the launch position, and lands soft into solid separation. At times, he can get long w/the stroke, and yet can tuck the hands and hammer middle in FB’s for 70 raw power. A dead pull hitter, that is working on utilizing the right side of the field more. Can get jumpy, as he wants to get the FB and has bad intentions. The defense is a question, as he has the hands and feet to handle the hot corner, and many of his errors are on fielding plays. Is working on deeper positioning, which will allow for added range and comfort. Does play low to the ground and with the deeper positioning, he shows added range and the arm which is plus to 70 at times, plays beyond most 3B’s arm ranges. Runs well for his size at 6.8-6.9/60 and is an underway runner vs. down the line. With the move to the WAC and the added offensive environment of the league, look for a big year out of the 22 yr old R-SO, as he will be a name scouts will be watching closely. 

2021 Jake Engel, OF/1B, R-R, R-SR, Dixie State U

Engel was poised for a big Sr year in 2020 when the CoVid pandemic hit. Off to a sizzling start at .458 with 27 R, 6 HR and 26 RBI through 18 games, and would have most likely heard his name called in the ‘20 draft, after hitting .385 14 52 as a junior, which earned him NCAA DII 1st Team All-American honors. Engel Is well props at 6-2 215 and put together with the kind of strength his frame suggests. A taller yet even props square stance with his hands carried over his back shoulder. Takes a slight inward turn and pulls the hands back into the launch phase, with a small stride and good balance throughout a simple and short, yet powerful stroke. A professional type hitter with a track record and power to all fields, Engel will hit in the 3 hole and provide a big bat for the Trailblazers. Moves around between LF/1B and makes the routine play with a BA arm. Is a fringe runner for a big guy and is better underway with a 6.9/60 yd dash. With another big year, Engel should get his shot at pro ball this time around, if he translates his big DII production at the DI level this next spring. 

2021 Lane Pritchard, RF/CF, L-R, R-SR, Dixie State 

An athletic versatile defender that can play all 3 OF spots. Has seen most of his action in CF/RF and has produced over the past 2 seasons, as a solid college performer. Was off to a good start in ‘20 with a .365 2 13 with 23 R over 18 games before the shutdown. As a Junior hit .357 7 23 with 61 R and was 15-20 in SB’s. Was a candidate for a day 3 selection in ‘20, but a 5 Rd draft returned the catalyst to campus and will be counted on to provide all around solid play as a R-SR. A wide crouched base to hit, with a hands back trigger with a soft stride into a compact, short EZ stroke with a smooth arc into a 2 hand finish. Sprays hard hit LD’s to all fields with surprising power from CF-pull side. Runs hard out of the gate and is an avg runner with the ability to track balls in the OF and makes all the plays. The arm is avg with length to his arm stroke with online throws. No real standout tool, but is the epitome of a baseball player with a track of success. 

2021 Carson Phillips, RHP, R-SO, Dixie State U

A surprise arm on scout day, as a JC transfer from San Diego Mesa JC in CA, after playing his freshman year at Cal Baptist. The numbers aren’t great from a year ago, yet had his way with some hitters in a brief look today. What he does bring is some intriguing stuff to the table with a MLB frame at 6-4 215 and looks the part. Features a rhythmic NWU high inward kick to delivery and drives to the plate with his lower ½ and the arm is loose and live with good ext out front. Shows solid avg arm speed with late arm side tail to a FB 91-93 (2250 RPM) and a hard late breaking SL 86-87 (2350 RPM) that will be a solid 2nd pitch. Finished off his inn with a avg CH 82 (1950 RPM) while maintaining arm speed and the pitch shows a pull the string type fading effect with sink. Has the 3 pitch mix of a starter, but with 3 avg to solid pitches and an aggressive demeanor, it’s EZ to see as a lock down late inning guy for a team looking to compete and make noise as a newcomer to the WAC. 

2022 Kaden Hollow, C, R-R, R-FR, Dixie State U 

With limited playing time as a freshman last spring, Hollow gets his year back, due to the CoVid pandemic. Has come on this fall, and looks to be the frontrunner to get the majority of starts behind the dish in ‘21. A solidly built 6-1 200 LHH catcher with a flexible and agile frame and moves well side to side. Features the one knee down style of catching, that’s being taught now, but shows a quiet head and the hands to catch at the next level. Gives the target and then brings the glove down and works up through the zone with his thumb under the ball, to receive and stick pitches quietly to get K’s for his pitchers. Is quick to drop and keep pitches in front and can slide side to side in catching pot WP's. The arm is avg and accurate with solid feet and fundamentals to throw. The LH bat is a plus for the position, as he utilizes a semi crouched even prop stance and carries the bat on the shoulder and whips the bat in a circular motion to load and stride into separation. Shows a quick, short inside out stroke with quick wrists and will be an all fields type hitter, while showing some loft power to the pull side in BP. One to watch in the spring with solid defensive tools and showed feel to work with pitchers and be a leader.