Trey Dombroski burst onto the draft radar after a pitcher of the year-winning campaign in the Cape Cod League after his sophomore year at Monmouth. He had been a successful underclassman, albeit in limited action, totaling 71 and 2⁄3 innings, 79 strikeouts against 8 walks and 0 HRs allowed in his first two years on campus, but given the level of competition he hadn’t yet really stood out from the pack of solid mid-major starters. The Cape represented Dombroski’s first chance to pitch on a big stage for pro evaluators, and he responded with a dominating run, striking out 45 against just 2 (!) walks in 31 and 2⁄3 innings of work, again allowing 0 homers, resulting in a 0.85 ERA. This made Dombroski a popular draft sleeper, as while his stuff wasn’t exactly electrifying, he had a well balanced four-pitch mix that he showed advanced feel to locate and sequence, and many felt that these traits could allow the stuff to play up. Additionally, while Dombroski was in the 88-92 range with his fastball at the time, there was some optimism about potential velocity gains due to his large frame.
In his junior year, Dombroski continued to dominate MAAC lineups, ending up with a 3.13 season ERA supported by an excellent 120/14 K/BB ratio in 95 innings. However, a significant blemish emerged in his statline- that being a 10 in the HRs allowed column. This came as a surprise, because as mentioned above, he had not allowed a single long ball as a collegiate previously. Ultimately, this hard contact issue weighed pretty heavily on his draft stock- Dombroski was seen as a potential top 50 selection after the Cape, but there weren’t any notable stuff gains during his final amateur regular season, and the chief concern that comes with a low-velo fastball is a weakness to hard contact, making the results a bit alarming- and pouring some water on the idea that impact command could allow Dombroski to dodge hard contact more than the raw stuff would suggest. He would ultimately slide to the 4th round, where the Astros selected him 133rd overall and subsequently signed him for just under $500k.
Despite his polish, Dombroski did not pitch in live minor league action in 2022, instead working at the complex. The buzz was that the Astros were among the teams who saw potential for velo gains in Dombroski, seeing him as more of an upside play than an old school, high floor, “crafty lefty” type, which likely played a role in their handling of him last season. Dombroski would go on to open at Single-A Fayetteville, where he has made 9 appearances to date, totaling 39 and 2⁄3 innings with a very strong 56/15 K/BB ratio and 32 hits allowed, of which 6 have been home runs. He has had little trouble missing bats at this level, but most of his whiffs come on pitches out of the zone that have been set up effectively rather than overpowering the competition. The ability to induce bad swings is valuable, but it becomes progressively more difficult at higher levels of competition- plus stuff doesn’t suffer these kinds of diminishing returns.
While I don’t have pitch data from this season available, TV broadcasts and the raw results indicate that not much has changed for Dombroski in terms of pure stuff quality. His secondaries are vanilla and of roughly average quality- there’s a big vertical curveball, a changeup that is sold well, and a slider with some decent sweep, but none of them look like a true big league out pitch at this point, and the fastball lacks bat missing movement properties in addition to velocity. More heat could help all of his offerings, and it is true that the command and IQ help his overall profile, but he’s likely only a SP6/swingman type without stuff gains. Dombroski is still a young 22 and there’s more time for a stuff jump to come, but until it happens it’s hard for me to project him too aggressively. Hopefully he and the Astros have more developmental tricks up their sleeve to help him find a bit more juice- the complexion of his profile could change very quickly if so.