Dean Kremer was quite efficient on the mound last week. As a result, he's proven quite efficient at winning awards as well.
The Dodgers' No. 29 prospect has been named Texas League Pitcher of the Week for July 2-8 after making his Double-A Tulsa debut last Thursday. Kremer tossed a seven-inning shutout in that opener, tying a season high with 11 strikeouts while scattering three hits and three walks in a 2-0 win over Midland. This is the 22-year-old right-hander's first Minor League Pitcher of the Week award at any level.
Kremer needed only 92 pitches to get through his seven frames, throwing 64 of them for strikes. That was well in line for a pitcher who had dropped his walk rate from 9.6 percent at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga in 2017 to 8.1 percent with the same club to open 2018 before his promotion last week.
• View the Player of the Week winners »
"There was nothing overly shocking," said Tulsa pitching coach Dave Borkowksi. "The fastball command was the big thing and just as good as we'd heard. The hitters were unable to get in a groove because of the way he was able to spot it. He was aggressive, didn't show any fear. Everything we heard was pretty spot-on, but even saying that, to go seven innings and throw a complete game, that's all a bonus."
Even if Thursday's gem was just a continuation of what Kremer had been doing in the California League, the 2018 season as a whole has represented a big step forward for the 2016 14th-rounder. Kremer worked mostly as a long man out of the Rancho Cucamonga bullpen last season and struggled some with a 5.18 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 80 innings. There were signs a turnaround could come, however -- namely his 3.88 FIP and 27 percent strikeout rate in 2017 -- and it started to play out in the first half of this campaign. Kremer's 35.5 percent strikeout rate ranks as the highest among qualified Class A Advanced pitchers, while his 3.06 FIP still sits third in the California League. He also posted a 3.30 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through 79 innings before his promotion last week.
Video: Kremer finishes complete game for Drillers
The UNLV product, who gained international experience as a member of Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, has earned impressive marks for his fastball, which Borkowksi noted was around 91-94 mph last Thursday. The Drillers pitching coach added that he was impressed by the way Kremer landed his above-average curveball in the zone early while mixing in his slider and changeup over the later innings.
With that type of four-pitch mix in his starter's arsenal, Borkowski tried to keep his pregame pep talk simple.
"My advice is to always be who you are," Borkowski said. "Pitch to your strengths. Guys come up here and try to do a little bit more than they should. They try to throw the kitchen sink at guys. They try to pitch on the black, instead of just staying in the zone. I want to ease their minds as best I can that if they're here, it's because their stuff is plenty good. Rely on that."
Kremer, who started the season outside the list of top 30 prospects in the Los Angeles system, had done plenty from April through June to improve his standing in the organization, and Thursday's gem will only help catapult him even further. But Kremer, Burkowksi and the Dodgers won't rest on the right-hander's laurels, especially if the former reliever wants to keep looking like a starting pitcher for the perennial National League contenders.
"I don't have a lot of history with him, obviously, but I know he works a lot on his delivery," said Burkowksi. "He works on keeping it on line with the plate, not forcing things across his body. But the biggest improvement I'd like to see is with the changeup. Instead of throwing it two or three times, maybe work it in seven, eight or nine times a game. It's a pitch he's going to need to be a starter, and it just comes down to reps with it."
Here are the rest of the Minor League Pitchers of the Week for July 2-8:
||0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 14 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 19 K
||1-0, 1.42 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 2/3 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
||2-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 1/3 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 18 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 1/3 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 16 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 SHO, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
||2-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 14 K
||2-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 11 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 18 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
||0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 7 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K
||Adrian Del Moral
||0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K