Reid Detmers was the first-round pick 10th overall by the Angels in 2020. While that is important in itself for establishing pedigree, it’s slightly more important because the COVID-shortened season of 2020 also had a COVID-shortened draft of only 5 rounds (2021 was also shortened but went to 20 rounds); a proverbial “get your guy” draft. The Angels’ farm system was in shambles and they hadn’t drafted a pitcher in the first round since Sean Newcomb in 2014 (don’t even get me started on that). Let that set the stage for you.
Needless to say (while I go on to say it), Reid Detmers did not disappoint. Despite no minors in 2020, he carved through AA and AAA in 2021 on his way to earning a cup of coffee at the end of the year. He posted a 30%+ K-BB ratio that turned heads enough to push him up the ladder quickly. Which is important to keep in mind, Detmers is a strikeout pitcher at his core.
That led to big expectations for him at the start of 2022. Our very own Grey Albright wrote a sleeper for him last preseason, here, which included a healthy smattering of prospecting by Hobbs and Itch (sounds like a spinoff of Yellowstone). To summarize: Detmers showed plus command, nasty breaking pitches, and has all the makings of a solid number 3 starter with some upside of developing into a number 2. Then the season came.
It was a decent first season that had a fair amount of ups and downs (as is the case for most rookies) including a no-hitter in his 11th career start. And while it was a fantastic feat to see him shut down the Rays for 9 innings, he only walked away with 2 strikeouts. He had a lot of balls in play (and out of play) go his way during the game including Anthony Rendon hitting his first-ever pitch and HR from the left side of the plate en route to a 12-0 victory.
Everything went his way. And while it was exciting, there was an undercurrent of concern. Detmers didn’t dominate batters as expected. He hit some rough starts and then ultimately was sent down to Salt Lake after his June 21st start to work on his pitches to find that gear he had been missing since the minors. Again, Reid Detmers is supposed to be a strikeout pitcher.
And that’s where the switch flipped. Detmers’ season, outside of the no-hitter, is really a tale of two halves. After meeting with the minor league coaching staff they determined that his mechanics had gotten out of sorts. As Sam Blum of the Athletic had learned, he was not maintaining balanced shoulders with his release and it was affecting his pitches, specifically the slider. After fixing it, he came up and posted a 3.04 ERA the rest of the way with nearly a 26% strikeout rate. He had found himself, again.
What changed? His slider had become loopy with a greater horizontal break. Double rainbows are only pretty in the sky. While that might be advantageous for some pitchers to have a sweeping slider, because Detmers already had an exceptional curveball, he didn’t need another pitch that followed a similar path and shape. Detmer’s success in the past came from his slider being harder with more downward bite, almost like a pseudo-cutter. As such the velocity on his slider jumped from 82-84 mph up to an average of 87+ mph.
Before, batters weren’t missing as many pitches because they were more predictable. This gave it a different look, in both shape and direction, from his other pitches. As you see above, at the worst point in May his curve and slider were indistinguishable in break. After his return to the Angels’ rotation at its best point in August, his slider was like it used to be, quick and downward. His fastball, slider, and curve each had roughly 10 inches of movement separating the 3 in addition to their velocity. That’s what was missing; separation and differentiation.
With regained confidence, Reid Detmers went back to his slider often going from around 20% usage prior to the demotion to a peak of 33.5% usage in the month of August. And the results agreed, he was back.
Another way to look at it, his K/9 jumped from under 7 to nearly 10 with a bump in his swinging strike rate up to 13.1%. He also cut down his HR/9 to poultry 0.25 while reducing his allowed barreled rate to 6.2%. Detmers was finally able to keep batters off-balance more consistently, and off-balance hitters can’t square up pitches as easily. Because the slider looked more like a fastball now, it improved the effectiveness of his fastball and changeup. Both had a swing-and-miss rate (percent of swings missing vs percent of pitches missing like SwStr) below 20% prior to being sent down and jumped to above 30% for the month of July.
Because the separation in his pitches was reestablished and batters’ eyes couldn’t rest on a pitch, Detmers got them to chase his breaking pitches again. A chase rate against breaking pitches that bottomed out at 22.4% in June peaked at 36.6% in September. Detmers was once again a strikeout pitcher.
By fixing his mechanics and getting the downward motion and shape of his slider to be distinct from his curveball Reid Detmers rediscovered what makes him special and that deserves your attention. Yes, I am again asking you to take interest in an Angels player not named Ohtani *insert Bernie meme*. With an ADP currently around 218, I like Reid Detmers as an upside number 4 pitcher for fantasy this season.
Still under 200 career innings, I like him a bit less than his teammate Patrick Sandoval; but if Sandy is off the board after pick 200, I like Reid Detmers for the price to put up quality innings this year. I foresee him giving 9 K/9 and 3 BB/9 ratios with a chance for improved command and an ERA around 3.60 across 150 IP with a chance for more… but don’t take my word for it.
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