Lighter, stronger, more aggressive Dylan Stoops enjoying dominant season for East Prospect
- East Prospect pitcher Dylan Stoops is 7-0 this season with a 0.15 ERA.
- In 46 regular-season innings, Stoops has given up one run and struck out 91.
- The former San Diego Padres farmhand has lost 40 pounds over the past year.
The statistics speak for themselves.
East Prospect pitcher Dylan Stoops is putting up historical numbers in 2020.
In 46 regular-season innings pitched, he's allowed one earned run, 27 hits and six walks. He's 7-0 in seven starts and one relief outing and has struck out 91. His ERA is a nearly microscopic 0.15.
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“It’s as if they know they have been defeated before they even take one swing,” East Prospect catcher Mark Schauren said of the opposition whenever Stoops is on the mound.
Better competition brings out the best in him: The fact that the former San Diego Padres farmhand is enjoying such a stellar season in 2020 is rather remarkable. In years past, there would inevitably be at least one or more top players missing from the other team because of work, school or other reasons.
Not so this year. Because of the pandemic, many of the top college prospects throughout the league have been available all summer. The Susquehanna League is one of the few places for those standouts to perform.
“Playing in this league this year has been so great,” said Stoops, who helped EP to fourth consecutive regular-season league crown. “Because there are just so many college players back. The talent level across the board has been higher for sure.”
The Eastern York High School and University of Richmond graduate attributes that higher level of competition, in part, for his campaign thus far.
“Yeah, I think that is part of why I feel like I’m so locked in,” he said. “I know that each team I face is better than they have been since I’ve been in the league. And seeing these guys, and maybe never having faced them before, I want to just go and take the mound and I want to leave an impression.”
"Wow" factor: There’s little doubt he's done just that.
“Most of them just say, ‘wow … that’s the best curveball I’ve ever seen,’” said Schauren, who has caught Stoops ever since he started playing with EP nearly a decade ago. “And we have some really good hitters in this league, so it’s not like those comments are coming from a 13-year-old kid.”
Improved conditioning: The desire to dominate has coincided with an improved training regimen that Stoops employed just more than a year ago.
At one point, the southpaw’s weight grew perilously close to 250 pounds.
That was just the kind of wake-up call that the 28-year-old Stoops needed.
“I stepped on the scale and it was at 249,” the 6-foot, 4-inch Stoops said. “And last year I just wasn’t having as much fun on the baseball field as I had in the past. Physically I was out of shape and mentally I was just not all there. So I kind of looked in the mirror in the offseason and thought that I still have some good years left in me.
“So I worked hard to get back into better shape. I’ve lost about 40 pounds. I hit the weights really, really hard.”
He's playing at the same weight he did when his locker in Class A ball in the Padres organization was right next to an up-and-coming prospect named Fernando Tatis Jr. Stoops also feels way stronger now.
He’s also nearly 100% healthy, with nagging elbow, arm and knee issues seemingly behind him.
“I wasn’t this strong,” Stoops said. “I went back from my days in college and pulled up all of the old lifting routines that I did. And a lot of my time in college I was injured. I’d have times where I couldn’t do anything upper body because of a shoulder or arm issue. And then I had knee surgery, so I couldn’t do anything with my legs. And after I was released (by the Padres), my body was just so worn down. Now I can do all of those things together and I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt.”
More aggressive mindset: A more aggressive mindset has also helped. Stoops set a goal of striking out two batters an inning for the season, a mark that he is just a shade under at this point.
“We just tell him to be a dog,” said EP catcher Jordan Higgins, who joined the club a year ago. “He doesn’t just want to get people out. He’s coming with a killer mentality of ‘I’m not just going to get you out, I’m going to strike you out.’ And he’s done just that.”
Schauren, a Susquehanna League veteran, has seen a lot of players the caliber of Stoops over his tenure, but he puts the southpaw at the top of the list of all-time greats in SL history.
“His velocity and command of his pitches is probably the best I’ve seen,” Schauren said. “And I’ve been catching and playing for 23 years.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.