Dennis Tankersley is still just 27 years old, but his star sure has fallen since he was considered the best pitching prospect in the San Diego Padres’ system earlier this decade.
The righty, originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 38th round in 1998, is now with his fourth organization, having pitched in the St. Louis system this year. Here’s how his journey transpired.
After a strong debut in the Bosox organization, Tankersley was shipped to San Diego in the Ed Sprague deal in 2000. The Red Sox needed a stick and they parted with a couple of decent prospects for immediate help. It was a deal that did not look good for Boston after Tankersley emerged in 2001 as one of the brightest pitching prospects in the game.
Tankersley went 10-4, 1.98 in 25 games, shooting through three levels to reach Triple-A by the tender age of 22. He was named the Padres’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2001. Unfortunately, that was probably the pinnacle of his career.
He started the 2002 season back at Double-A, and although Tankersley pitched very well (3-3, 3.02), he wasn’t as dominant as he had been the previous season. He was moved up to Triple-A and fared well, although control issues began to arise.
Tankersley made his MLB debut later that season, but each time he’s been summoned to the bigs his control has really proved problematic. With the Padres in 2002, he walked 40 in just 51 1/3 innings.
Control continued to be a problem each time he came up to San Diego, seeing action again in 2003 and 2004. In 16 starts and 11 relief appearances in his big-league career, Tankersley has walked 61 batters in 86 1/3 innings. That’s led to a 1-10, 7.61 mark. It’s as if he’s nibbling when he gets a chance and is afraid to trust his stuff in the Show.
He hasn’t returned to the majors since. Despite a great Triple-A season in 2004 (his 3.15 ERA ranked third in the PCL), the Padres shipped him that offseason to the Royals in the Terrence Long deal.
He spent the 2005 season at Triple-A Omaha, going 9-8, 4.24 as a starter/reliever. The control was again an issue (59 walks in 136 innings), but you know there’s a problem when even KC won’t give you a shot in the bigs.
After 2005, Tankersley filed for free agency and the Cardinals signed him to a minor league deal last December. It was a smart move by the Cards, taking a shot at a local product, as Tankersley not only grew up in St. Charles, Mo., but he also went to St. Louis Community College-Meramec.
Unfortunately, Tankersley still wasn’t able to deliver much at Triple-A. He enjoyed a solid first half (4-9, 3.61), but he tanked in the second half (0-6, 5.67) when the Cards would have been more apt to give him a shot considering the pitching woes they were having at the big league level.
Tankersley is still young, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him emerge somewhere as a decent middle reliever/spot starter type. But he’ll have to learn to pitch his game and cut down the walks if he wants to stick around the next chance he gets in the majors.
(Editor’s note: Unless he agrees to terms to return to the Cardinals for 2007, Tankersley (and 25 other Cardinals farmhands) will become six-year minor league free agents on October 15. Subscribers can read more in this story ”26 Cards Six-Year Minor League Free Agents”.)
Rob Blackstien runs www.RotoRob.com, a site featuring daily fantasy sports analysis. In addition to his baseball work on Rotoworld, he contributes to Rotoworld’s basketball coverage. Rob also writes for CREATiVESPORTS.com, BaseballNotebook.com and has contributed to Rotoman’s Fantasy Baseball Guide and Fantasy Football Guide.