Louisville starting pitcher Reid Detmers was off to one of the best starts in the history of Cardinals baseball. Through four starts, amassing 22 innings, Detmers had punched out 48 hitters, good for second in the entire country. His 3-0 record and 1.23 ERA were widening eyes across the industry leading up to the June MLB Draft.
Then it all stopped.
“It happened so fast,” Detmers said. “Nobody could wrap their heads around it. Depressing, really depressing.”
The Louisville ace was of course referencing the complete shutdown of athletics, among other things, due to the COVID-19 virus sweeping its way across the globe.
“We were just sitting at the field and we saw all the other conferences cancelling games,” Detmers said. “If I’m being honest, we didn’t think anything of it. It’s no big deal. Then it all hit, and we realized we weren’t going to be playing. It’s over. That’s it. They cancelled the World Series. It’s over. It’s gone. Done. It was very emotional.”
Detmers views 2020 as an enormous missed opportunity. He and his teammates were playing good baseball, gearing up for a run in Omaha, Nebraska and the College World Series. The Cardinals were a mainstay in just about every Top 10 list in college baseball. They were going to the College World Series, and they were going to be an odds-on favorite in most matchups.
“When they cancelled the World Series we knew it was done,” Detmers said. “It was insane… crazy. We had just gotten done with practice and it all spiraled so fast. Nobody could really wrap their heads around it.”
Detmers said it was particularly devastating for the seniors, the four of five of them that had to come to grips with the fact their baseball careers, in some cases, were over. The team rallied around their upperclassmen like you’d expect.
Now what? Detmers, armed with arguably the best curveball in college baseball, is eligible to be selected in this year’s MLB Draft. But in year where he feels robbed of what could have been, he could return back to school and exhaust his final year of eligibility instead.
It’s a question Detmers finds himself pondering regularly, though he cautions he’s trying his best not to put the cart before the horse.
“At this point, if an opportunity arises, I’m focusing on keeping my body in shape and keeping my arm loose,” Detmers said. “I’m staying focused more than anything, staying strong. If an opportunity comes where I need to throw, I’ll be ready.”
“If” may be the key in all this. Last week, the Associated Press published an article suggesting some owners within Major League Baseball have kicked around the idea of cancelling the June draft, as well as the international signing period this year in an attempt to save cash in a shortened season.
The draft costs teams roughly $8 million per year in signing bonus fees – international signings another $5 million or so. In total, amateur acquisitions cost big league organizations somewhere between $7 million and $15 million per year. It’s a drop in the bucket for the average team valued at close to two billion dollars.
It’s certainly a little salt in the wound for a guy who already had his junior campaign swept out from under him.
“I choose not to think about it,” Detmers said. “But hey, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m preparing myself for whatever comes next, wherever that is. You have to be professional, always.”
Assuming things go according to plan, and the MLB Draft still takes place this summer, whomever ends up selecting Detmers is getting a very advanced arm that should move through the lower levels of a farm system with ease.
The 6-foot-2 inch southpaw has a reliable delivery over the top and throws a ton of strikes. The fastball comfortably sits 91-92. He mixes in a cutter, a changeup, and the real prize, an absolute hammer of a breaking ball that he throws for strikes from the very get-go. It’s a true 12-6 curve, coming in at 2700 rpms that he commands extremely well. Detmers has no problem throwing the bender as a first pitch get-me-over strike.
Reid Detmers, Filthy Curveball (one of his stadium record 16 Ks in 7.2 innings). pic.twitter.com/RBMiO3iW4L— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 23, 2019
“Man, this year I’m just totally trusting the curveball,” Detmers said. “I’m throwing it as hard as I can, whenever I can. I like to cast it in there for a strike when I want to get ahead.
It’s been a tough go for opposing hitters.
“Last year I was throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs,” Detmers said. “I was having a lot of success doing that too, but coaches and I decided it was time to work backwards this year. So we went about it that way.”
The fastball-curveball tunnels are nearly identical, making it pretty tough for hitters to pick up either pitch right out of the hand. Detmers’ philosophy on the mound is simple. He’s in there to attack the zone – the pitches speak for themselves.
“With the curve, I just think fastball all the way… nothing changes… fastball, fastball, fastball,” Detmers said. “But at the very last second, I snap it off hard and get that sharp bite. When I throw the fastball I let it ride — let it eat at the top of the zone. And it does.”
It’s no secret the 20-year-old will need to continue adding to his repertoire if he is to reach his ultimate ceiling of a #2 starter at the Big League level. A tick or two on the radar gun, plus more consistency with his secondary offerings. For Detmers though, he believes he already has a third offering, and he thinks it’s already better than the curve.
“Personally, I think my changeup is my best pitch, really,” Detmers said. “But why throw it? I don’t throw it much because I don’t have to, but it’s above average I’d say.”
Detmers has been mocked as high as no. 6 to Seattle to as low as no. 13 to the Giants. The draft, if it happens, is right around the corner.
“I’ve heard Seattle is awesome,” Detmers said. “But I’ve heard great things about several cities in that range. It’ll be exciting wherever I go. The opportunity is a blessing. I really don’t try to think about which team I’ll end up with. Wherever it is, I’ll be thankful.”