Angels select pitcher Reid Detmers with the 10th pick in the draft
On what would end up being one of his final days on the talent-searching trail this spring, Angels amateur scouting director Matt Swanson traveled to North Carolina on a lark. He had been in Birmingham, Ala., that early March morning and had no idea which baseball teams he would be watching that evening. He didn’t typically scout Southeastern or Atlantic Coast Conference teams so early in the season.
At least the Wake Forest and Louisville matchup he found seemed promising enough. Starting for Louisville was left-hander Reid Detmers, a pitcher Swanson had observed countless times since he emerged on the scene as a high school prospect years earlier. The Angels thought highly of Detmers.
The serendipitous decision to revisit him proved fruitful. On Wednesday, three months after Swanson watched the junior pitcher make his final college start, the Angels made Detmers their first-rounder, choosing him with the 10th pick of MLB’s 2020 amateur player draft.
Swanson praised Detmers in a conference call, adding that he believed the left-hander could reach the major leagues as a starting pitcher “in short order.”
“I think at the end of the day, we looked at it as this was exactly the type of player we wanted to bring into the system,” Swanson said.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made it clear there will be a season in 2020, and the owners are not backing off their insistence that players take an additional pay cut to play a longer season.
Detmers’ selection bucked a recent organizational trend. The last time the Angels selected a pitcher in the first round was in 2014, when they took college pitcher Sean Newcomb. He never played for the Angels; general manager Billy Eppler traded him to acquire Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Atlanta Braves. Since Swanson’s arrival ahead of the 2017 draft, the Angels have tended to select supremely athletic players considered higher-risk picks with higher upside in the first few rounds.
Detmers, 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, is a safer gamble. He was ACC pitcher of the year and a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist in 2019 after going 13-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 113 1/3 innings while setting Louisville’s season strikeout record with 167. The Illinois native later played for USA Baseball’s collegiate national team, giving up one run in 12 innings spanning three starts.
When the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 season, Detmers, who couples a low-90s fastball with an impressive curveball and a changeup, had compiled a 1.23 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 22 innings. Swanson saw the last of those innings on his March 6 visit to Winston-Salem, N.C.
Detmers had already left a positive impression on Swanson while competing for USA Baseball the previous summer. The Wake Forest outing, in which Detmers struck out 15 while giving up no runs on four hits and a walk despite a “miserably cold” climate, reinforced Swanson’s conviction.
“One of those nights where the flags are kind of standing up, it’s that windy, and just to see his competitiveness,” Swanson said. “There was a sequence where he got hit by a line-drive comebacker. He stayed in game, struck out the side to get out of it. His level of competitiveness, his pitch package, and the time we were able to spend with him, and understand him as person, you get a really strong level of comfort of what you’re getting yourself into.”
The Angels will lack a pivotal intelligence network during the MLB draft Wednesday and Thursday because they furloughed their area scouts June 1.
Detmers will not turn 21 until July, but MLB Network analyst and former pitcher Al Leiter said after the Angels’ selection that Detmers, one of the most polished arms available in the talent pool, “could be in the big leagues next year.”
Swanson didn’t argue with the projections.
“We look at [him] as someone who potentially is really close and could have an impact in short order,” he said.
Asked if he thought Detmers could join the Angels’ squad of reserve players this summer if MLB and the players union agree to stage an abbreviated and radically different baseball season, Swanson deferred to decision-makers above him.
On his end, Detmers could be ready to work in such capacity. He has kept active since baseball was shut down, throwing bullpens and playing catch. He has also continued to learn about the game in frequent conversations with his father, Kris, a former pitcher who made it to triple A with the St. Louis Cardinals before being released in 2000.
“I think I’m ready, but that’s not up to me,” Detmers said of his chances to join the taxi squad. “It’s up to the organization. So I’m just going to follow their guidelines. I’m going to do whatever they tell me to do and hopefully I can get that call soon. But if not, I’m still going to do everything to the best of my ability.”
The slot value for the 10th pick is $4,739,900. The Angels, who will make four selections in the five-round draft because they lost one when they signed third baseman Anthony Rendon, were allocated a signing bonus pool of $6,397,100 to bring their draftees into the farm system.
What to know about Angels first-rounder Reid Detmers
Hometown: Nokomis, Ill.
High school: Glenwood-Chatham
Career stats: 20-6, 3.20 ERA, 41 G, 30 S, 191 IP, 284 K, 73 BB, .193 opp. avg.
Fun fact: Angels top prospect Jo Adell, the 10th overall pick of the 2017 draft, was part of Detmers’ recruiting class for Louisville. They played in various tournaments together in high school. “I found it ironic,” Angels scouting director Matt Swanson said.
Swanson’s scouting report: “He has a natural feel and moxie for pitching. It’s like the sum of his parts is greater than the whole. The curve for him is his bread and butter, but to see how much swing and miss he gets on fastballs up and down in the zone, in and out, and the development of his change, a slider-cutter he’s working on. It’s a lot. And how he commands it all, that’s a pretty special package.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.