Legends On Deck

Prospects on Deck: RHP Andrew Istler – Dodgers

Photo by Amanda Ray/Great Lakes Loons

Baseball stars can emerge at anytime and from anywhere within an organization.  It doesn’t necessarily matter if you are an early round pick, a late round pick, a top prospect, or even a fringe prospect.  Real talent gets exposed when the opportunity is given.  Sometimes it happens sooner than others.

Insert Andrew Istler.

Istler was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 23rd round of the 2015 draft out of Duke University.  He started out his career with the Blue Devils as a starting left fielder/pitcher, until making the change to pitcher following his Sophomore year.

“I went in as a two-way, more as a pitcher, but they kind of knew I could play the outfield.  My first fall there I did really well in the outfield and hitting and got myself a starting spot in left field” Istler said in a phone interview.

During his freshman season at Duke, Istler batted .292 with 13 RBI, collecting 40 hits in 36 games.  He also made 23 appearances on the mound that year, posting a 4-4 record with a 3.63 ERA.  A bit of a hitting slump in his Sophomore season led to the position switch, which is most likely the reason I am writing about him now.

“My Sophomore year I started off in a little slump hitting, and me any my coach sat down and basically decided that my future was on the mound.”

That season he was primarly used as the Blue Devils closer, and racked up eight saves.  He made a team high 28 appearances and finished the season 3-6 with an ERA of 4.10.  He would come into his own in his final two seasons inserting himself into a weekend starter during his Junior year and continuing that his Senior year.  He left his mark on Duke’s record books when he departed.

With his Collegiate career in the rearview and the MLB Draft upon him, uncertainty set in about his future in baseball.  As the rounds started to pass by without his name being called it furthered his doubt.  It wasn’t until late in the draft that he got the call.

“Honestly I was unsure.  The last day of the draft rolled around and I hadn’t heard much from anyone, and then I got the phone call.  It was one of the greatest experiences of my life so far” Istler said about the draft.

After signing with the Dodgers, Istler was sent to the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League, where he would start his professional career.  “I had a rough first year” he said “but I was always confident in my ability to pitch” he added.

The Dodgers must have seen something in him even with his rough beginning.  Istler, along with a select group of others, were offered an opportunity to take part in an intense weighted ball program to help build strength and velocity.  The program is called “DriveLine” and it is a 10-week program which is designed to make the player perform his best.

The results were very impressive.  “I was about 88-92 (fastball) off the mound but usually 88-90” Istler said.  After the program he was hitting in the low to mid-90’s adding more life to his fastball, and also saw changes for the better in his slider.

“Basically everyday, we would do upwards of 160 throws with these weighted balls that ranged from little below a baseball all the way to four pounds.  Then we’d go out and do actual throwing with a baseball which included a lot of long toss.”

With this new program and added strength and velocity, I asked Istler if his delivery had to change and he said that it was a natural change to compensate for his arm moving quicker, but he added that it was more of an aggressive delivery.

All of that work proved to help because he earned himself a promotion to the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League.  There he not only helped the Loons to a Championship, but he finished the season holding opposing teams to an ERA of 0.96 in 11 appearances.  He struck out 21 in 18.2 innings and walked only two.  He ended his 2016 campaign with a WHIP of 0.70 and 10.5 K/9 which is a dramatic change from his first season.

This spring, Istler along with nine other guys, spent time in Dodgers big league camp as a “just in case” group.  L.A. brought 10 to the camp to be backup in big league games if they needed extra arms.

“We actually got a lot of opportunities to get in games which was an unbelievable experience.  I’ve gone over a bunch and been around those guys to see how detailed their routines are and just how they go about their business.  It’s really helped me to develop my own routine and try to increase that and get it better going forward.”

Istler pictured center

All of the work that Istler has put in during his time at Duke, his time at DriveLine, and his time in the minors has certainaly paid off as he has left his mark in big league camp.  He had a bit of a rough time in his most recent outing, but in his first four appearances he threw 4.0 innings allowing just one hit and five strikeouts.

It is unknown what the Dodgers have planned for Istler in 2017, but rest assured he will continue to work hard and improve to hopefully get that next call to fulfill his dreams to pitch in the major leagues.

On behalf of all of us at Legends on Deck, I’d like to wish him all the best as he continues to pursue his dreams, and want him to know that we will be following closely as he achieves them.


John has recently graduated from the University at Albany with a B.A. in History and is currently finishing his Master's Degree there as well in secondary education. After being away from school for over two decades he decided to go back and work towards his dream of becoming a social studies teacher.

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