After being drafted as the No. 10 selection in the 2020 MLB Draft, left-hander Reid Detmers spent last season at the club’s alternate site in Long Beach and made good use of his time there, including learning how to throw a slider.
It was a pitch that Detmers tried to master during his time at the University of Louisville, but he couldn’t quite find the grip. Detmers experimented with a knuckle-slider grip while playing catch with fellow top pitching prospect Chris Rodriguez last year, and has since added it to his repertoire. He even showed it off on Tuesday, when he threw a scoreless inning against the Reds in his Cactus League debut.
“The alternate site helped me a lot,” Detmers said via Zoom on Friday. “I created a new pitch with my slider and I really got to work on it a whole lot. It’s become one of my favorite pitches to throw.”
While his curveball remains his best pitch, Detmers -- ranked as the club’s No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- also flashed a fastball that touched 94 mph on Tuesday. His pitch mix and ability to locate is a big reason why he’s considered close to the Majors.
Detmers, 21, was considered the most Major League-ready starter in last year’s Draft, and he’s done nothing to dispel that notion thus far in his young career. He was one of the best starting pitchers in college his sophomore year in 2019, leading the nation with 13 wins and was second with 167 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings.
“I think he plays like he belongs here already,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We believe he’ll be able to help us at some point this year. He really carries himself in a way beyond his years.”
Detmers, though, is still only a year removed from pitching in college, so he’s trying to build up his arm strength for more frequent outings. He started once a week for Louisville and he’s now trying to find a routine that works for him to pitch every five days.
Detmers estimated he threw 60 innings last year at the alternate site and in instructional league, and believes he can build on that total this season.
"It's definitely a lot different than college ball," Detmers said. "Just learning how to prepare your body for starts, getting warmed up properly, doing stuff afterwards in order to keep throwing every fifth day. So it's about learning to prepare your body, so nothing goes wrong. That's been the biggest thing for me."
Detmers will continue to get looks this spring, as the Angels continue to assess how close he is to reaching the Majors. Detmers believes he’s ready for whatever is asked of him and understands it’s not his call on when that’ll happen.
The Angels improved their starting pitching depth this offseason by acquiring veterans Alex Cobb and José Quintana, while Detmers has other youngsters to compete with such as Jaime Barria, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and Rodriguez.
Detmers is expected to start the season in the Minor Leagues, but if he can continue to improve, there remains a solid chance he could be up in the Majors this season. He’s also expected to counted on heavily in 2022, as Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Cobb and Quintana will all be free agents after '21.
"I feel great, body feels great,” Detmers said. “I can definitely handle a workload. But that's not my decision. It's whatever the staff has planned for me. Whatever they have to do, I respect it and I'm hoping for the best."