Dakota Chalmers was drafted in the third round of the 2015 draft by the Oakland A’s. A highly-touted prep pitcher from Georgia, he signed a seven-figure signing bonus, more than twice the slot number for the 97th overall pick.
Immensely talented and strong-armed, Chalmers recorded a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks. He missed time due to injury. When he returned to Beloit in 2018, he made two appearances and walked eight and struck out ten batters in five innings. He was pitching hurt.
Soon after, he had Tommy John surgery.
Back home in Georgia, what happened next was completely unexpected. In late August, he was traded to the Twins in exchange for veteran reliever Fernando Rodney.
“It wasn’t remotely on my mind at all. I was out sweeping leaves off my back porch when they called me.” Chalmers continued, “It didn’t really settle in until I had all that handled and I was in Ft. Myers rehabbing. And then it was such a smooth transition. Fortunately I was so busy, I didn't have time to think about anything.”
There were some difficult logistical changes following the trade. He didn’t know anyone in the Twins organization. He got to Fort Myers to continue his rehabilitation from surgery. Fortunately (or unfortunately, however you chose to look at it), there were several Twins minor leaguers there rehabbing from elbow surgery.
“It helps to have guys who have had it already. It’s nice to know you can help and encourage your teammates. It’s such an up and down process. I think it’s good to have players around each other. For me, it’s nice to have guys go through things with you, as much as it sucks. It’s something that’s part of our game, you deal with it and get back as soon as possible.”
But for the most part, everything went well throughout his rehab process. He said that there weren’t any physical setbacks in his rehab. Sure, the schedule would have had him throwing for the first time during the holidays, but it was just pushed back as there was no rush.
Just before the Florida State League All-Star break, he was added to the Miracle roster and began his rehab with the GCL Twins. On July 2nd, he went 1 1/3 innings. He faced ten batters and gave up six runs (five earned) on two hits, a walk and two hit batters. All four outs were strikeouts. The results didn’t matter at all. He was back on the mound.
He made three more starts in the GCL and gave up just one run on six hits over 12 innings.
On July 30th, he was added back to Miracle roster and made his first official start in about 15 months. Of course, even that couldn’t be easy.
“My first real game, there was lightning everywhere. Everywhere. Every lightning bolt, we thought it would get cancelled. It was a little distracting. Obviously I was a little nervous just getting back into the swing of things. It was a mess. It got cancelled after one inning. It was crazy, but I settled in and had a strong finish to the year.”
He went four innings in his next start and then threw at least five innings in his final three starts of the year. In those starts, he gave up three runs (two earned) on nine hits in 16 1/3 innings. He walked seven, but he also struck out 23 batters.
And with his stuff and those final starts, he earned a promotion to Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos and he made one playoff start. He threw three no-hit innings. “It was certainly fun pitching in that environment.”
He had worked a total of 34 2/3 innings, so the Twins sent him to the Arizona Fall League. Along with just accumulating innings, Chalmers had some goals in mind, including finding more consistency.
“Historically in my career, I’ve had ups and downs in starts. I would have a good start, bad start. I had about three or four good, not great,but quality starts to end the year with the Miracle. So I was really just trying to not focus on making any adjustments, just trying to ride out my first season, stay healthy and see how many good ones I could stack on top of each other.” He continued, “Then we ran into some troubles late in the Fall League and those were mechanical problems that we knew that we had to fix. The Fall League was about pitching more innings, and the offseason was for fixing those issues.”
Chalmers started the championship game for the Salt River Rafters, helping the team to the Arizona Fall League title.
At the end of November, Chalmers received the call that he had been added to the Twins 40-man roster. It hadn’t been something that he had thought about throughout the season and in the rehab process.
“I wouldn’t say that I really even thought of it. I was more focused on getting back on the field healthy. I knew it was going to be a short year coming off of Tommy John. I had an inclination that I might go to the Fall League at the beginning of the year. My goal was to finish the Fall League healthy and get a good start on spring training. The 40-man was more of a timing thing. It was out of my control. I pitched as well as I could, had some ups and downs, and that’s what they chose to do.”
Chalmers has big-time stuff. He is certainly one to watch especially as his first-full season is set to begin with big-league spring training in a couple of weeks. Chalmers has a big arm. His fastball gets good movement and he throws it anywhere from 92 to 97 mph. He has a curveball that can be sharp.Some days, his best pitch is a changeup with good fade and drop.
He spent his offseason back home in Georgia. He worked on adding a cutter. He also worked on throwing strikes.He spent time in the weight room too. “Trying to strengthen my core and lower half so I could stabilize my delivery. Keep my head online and throw my strikes.”
He was invited to Twins Fest and enjoyed the opportunity.”It’s cool seeing some faces that you only have seen on the TV, and that’s always cool. Any time you can expand your baseball community, and the baseball world is such a small world. Any time you can add another name to that list it’s good, to have somebody on your side. ”
After all the ups and downs, in about two weeks, he will head to Ft. Myers and report to his first big-league spring training.
Get to know more about Dakota Chalmers and about 170 other Twins prospects in the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It is available in paperback or PDF (for immediate download). Order your copies today! Use promo code ONEFIVE to get 15% off of print books through January 30th.