As the 2021 season rolled on, one of the biggest reasons for excitement within the Angels organization was the rapid development of top pitching prospect Reid Detmers.
The team’s first round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Detmers began this year with Double-A Rocket City for his first taste of professional baseball, where he immediately started to show some massive improvements in his game. Once clocking in primarily around 88-92 miles per hour with his fastball, he started to run his heater up in the 92-95 range on a consistent basis with the Trash Pandas while also mixing in his plus curveball and new and improved knuckle slider with good results.
These steps forward helped Detmers achieve great success in the minors despite being younger than almost everyone he played against. In 12 starts with Rocket City, he posted a 3.50 ERA over 54 innings with an absolutely ludicrous 97 strikeouts, including 16 in one six-inning outing in late June.
As a result of his stellar play, Detmers started to gain more and more attention across the baseball world. He rose rapidly up numerous different prospect rankings, going from No. 74 in MLB Pipeline’s preseason top 100 prospects list up to No. 23 at the end of the year and from No. 65 all the way up to No. 7 in The Athletic’s midseason list, and he was selected to pitch in the All-Star Futures Game, where he struck out both of the hitters he faced.
Detmers gained the attention of the Angels as well, as they called him up to the big leagues after just one outing with Triple-A Salt Lake (where he threw six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts) in order to fill the rotation spot vacated by the recently-traded Andrew Heaney. The 22-year-old made his first start in the majors on August 1 against the A’s, but he was roughed up pretty good by a hot Oakland lineup, allowing six earned runs in 4.1 innings while walking two and striking out a pair. He made it through the first couple innings of this outing unscathed, but gave up most of the damage against him in the third via a three-run home run by Matt Olson and a two-run shot by Yan Gomes.
Detmers’ second career start came a week later against another potent lineup in the Dodgers, where he was touched up again to the tune of seven hits and five earned runs (two of which came on another longball off the bat of Albert Pujols) in five innings pitched. Despite the less than great line, however, there was more to like in that outing than his first one, as he settled in nicely and allowed just two baserunners across his final three frames.
The best outing of Detmers’ young career came on August 15, when he squared off against the eventual AL Champion Astros. In that start, Detmers gave up a lone run (via a Michael Brantley homer) over six innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out six. This effort gave the young lefty his first major-league win, and it was the first instance of him showing exactly what he can do at the highest level.
Final line on Reid Detmers:— Halos Heaven (@halosheaven) August 15, 2021
Excellent outing from the rookie, bouncing back very nicely from his first two starts against a great Astros lineup. pic.twitter.com/5eV3iLxPw7
Unfortunately, however, this would be the high point of Detmers’ big league stint, as the rest of his 2021 was less than ideal. His next start against Cleveland looked a lot like his first two, as he lasted just 3.2 innings while giving up seven hits and three earned runs (all on yet another home run allowed, this one to José Ramirez) despite recording 15 whiffs, and just two days later, he was placed on the injured list with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis that knocked him out of action for almost a month. He made one tune-up start in AAA before being recalled again for the Halos’ last game of the season against the Mariners on October 3. He was on a strict pitch limit in that game due to his recent inactivity, which led to him only recording five outs while giving up a pair of runs.
5 Starts / 1-3 Record / 7.40 ERA / 6.36 FIP / 1.79 WHIP / 20.2 IP / 26 H / 17 ER / 12 BB / 19 K / 5 HR / .297/.386/.534 slashline against / 28.5% CSW rate with the Angels
14 Starts / 3-4 Record / 3.19 ERA / 1.15 WHIP / 62 IP / 52 H / 22 ER / 19 BB / 108 K / 10 HR / .224 AVG combined between AA Rocket City and AAA Salt Lake
Best Performance of the Year
As mentioned above, Detmers’ best outing with the Angels was easily his start against the Astros on August 15 where he went six innings of one-run ball. His success in that one came largely on the back of his curveball, which he used a season-high 37 percent of the time to record a whopping 10 called strikes and three of his six strikeouts on the day. This was the closest that Detmers looked to how he was performing in the minors during his brief stint with the big league club, and starts like this one will likely be the blueprint to how he finds success next year and into the future.
Outlook for 2022
Detmers will obviously be with the Angels next year and for the long run barring some unforeseen trade, but his role for next year’s team remains unclear. His five starts in the majors did leave a lot to be desired, and manager Joe Maddon suggested that the Halos need to aim higher when asked by reporters about him potentially being in the starting rotation in 2022.
Maddon was also asked about Reid Detmers being in next year's rotation, and he suggested that the Angels need to aim higher. pic.twitter.com/dAt3TuFqw2— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) September 23, 2021
These comments suggest that Detmers is likely to start the year back in Triple-A, which is probably in the best interests of both him and the club. His first taste of big league action showed that there are still things that he needs to work on (primarily limiting the home runs and finding better command in the zone with his fastball), and making those improvements without the pressure that comes with performing at the major league level is likely the best course of action for his development.
It is worth remembering, though, that Detmers did show flashes despite how his final numbers looked overall. His curveball was as advertised in the majors, showing its potential as both a strike getter and a weak contact generator, and his slider looked at times like the reliable third offering that he had lacked when coming out of college. These are great building blocks to work off of for the future, and if Detmers can fine tune the rest of his game to go along with them, he should be able to move past his rough start to his big-league career and become the guy that the Angels envisioned.