Dwyer struck out 10 Arkansas Travelers in just six innings last Friday, tying a Naturals record. It was the latest of his victories in four consecutive outings. After languishing for the first three months of the season, Dwyer has suddenly become a killer.
Less than a month ago, Dwyer looked anything like the 83rd best prospect in America. In fact on July 20 he had plummeted to a 2-9 record with an embarrassing 6.96 ERA. He probably wouldn’t have ranked as the 83rd best prospect in the state of Arkansas at that moment.
But something seems to have clicked. In his last four starts he has pitched at least six innings in each outing, and has surrendered more than one earned run only once. His strikeout totals in those four starts: 5,9,5,10.
Dwyer took his lumps earlier in the summer, but he allowed the experience to make him better.
“Obviously you’re going to have some rough outings, but you just have to learn from that,” said Dwyer. “You just have to stick with it and work on it between starts.”
Dwyer said even when he was struggling it wasn’t because his stuff was lacking. “It’s more walks than getting hit hard,” Dwyer said about his poor performances. “Getting behind in the count hurts. When you’re down 3-0 or 3-1, you just can’t really get to your best pitches.”
Dwyer believes his curveball is his best pitch. He said when he isn’t locating his fastball as well as he’d like, it limits the effectiveness of his curve.
“For me it’s so important to get my fastball down and command it – not getting it up or out of the zone,” Dwyer said.
“The fastball is the key to everyone’s game. Once you command that, then you can work off that. I try to get to my curveball. So once I command my fastball I can use my curve more.”
Dwyer’s success might have the Royals top brass considering giving him a late-season promotion to Omaha. But the 21-year-old Bostonian isn’t waiting by the phone.
“I don’t really worry about that. If it happens, it happens. I just stay focused on the season here, focused on the playoffs. Whatever they want to do is up to them.
Dwyer said his team is motivated by the prospect of making the playoffs and competing for a second consecutive Texas League crown. The Royals have placed high value on letting prospects experience minor-league postseason battles. So it seems likely that Dwyer will stay with Northwest Arkansas through the end of the season.
Dwyer is well aware of his status as a top-ranked prospect, and he acknowledges that brings added pressure to the game. But he said it is important that he not place unrealistic expectations on himself.
“I try not to pay attention (to the hype),” Dwyer said.” My job is to go out and take the ball every fifth day, throw strikes, and do my best. If you think about that other stuff, it just gets in your head. I just try to do my best every day.”
Dwyer does, however, acknowledge that he’s enjoyed being one of several Royals prospects garnering national attention.
“It is fun, and I try to enjoy it, but obviously going out and getting a win for your team is the most important thing.”
Dwyer has seen several of his peers move up the organizational ladder, even some who have graduated to the big leagues. He says that is both fun and motivational.
“It’s fun to be a part of a group, moving up together. We root for each other, see each other every day, practicing and playing the games. And hopefully, someday, we can do it for Kansas City.”
One player who moved up recently garnered particular praise from Dwyer – catcher Salvador Perez, now the everyday catcher at Omaha.
“He’s an unreal catcher,” Dwyer said of his former teammate. “He just gets it and he understands the hitters and he just knows how to catch. It’s awesome, being that young and that good. He deserves every opportunity he’s getting, and hopefully, someday soon, he’ll be up there catching for the Royals.”
Dwyer said Perez is the total package defensively, with a bat that’s improving.
“He’s smart and he has got a really good arm, and he’s big, and he’s good with his glove. He’s just got everything.
“He’s starting to really hit – he’s hitting better this year than he ever has. So if you get a hitting catcher with that defensive ability it’s just awesome.”
Dwyer may soon throw to his friend Perez again, be it in Omaha this year or next, or quite possibly in KC next season. But it didn’t look like that would happen anytime soon, if ever, just a month ago. Dwyer’s rebound from bust to phenom is one of many things giving Royals fans hope for the future.