The Detroit Tigers plucked right-hander Ethan DeCaster in the 18th round of this year’s draft. Did they find themselves a hidden gem?
The 2018 MLB Draft is likely going to be a pivotal one for the Detroit Tigers. If No. 1 pick Casey Mize can develop into a frontline starter, the team’s rebuild may not be as long as some expect. Likewise, expectations for outfielder Parker Meadows and second baseman Kody Clemens are sky-high as well. If the team can get three bona-fide starts out of this draft, they’ll be contending in the AL Central before we know it.
While those are lofty expectations for anyone taken past the tenth round, stranger things have certainly happened. The Tigers will hope that someone they took in rounds 11-50 can develop into a big league regular. If anyone does, it could very well be right-hander Ethan DeCaster, whom the team nabbed in the 18th round from Duke University.
A look at DeCaster
DeCaster was a senior grad transfer who played his final season at Duke after spending three seasons at Creighton University. He came out of the bullpen at Duke, posting a 6-0 record and a 1.34 ERA with five saves in 53.2 innings pitched. His 57/6 K/BB ratio was elite, as was his .217 BAA.
It’s no surprise he got drafted, and the Tigers were happy to snatch him up to kick off the 18th round. DeCaster rocketed up the minor league ranks, pitching with GCL West (R), Connecticut (Low-A) West Michigan (A) and making one appearance with High-A Lakeland.
DeCaster’s rapid ascent can be explained rather simply: At every level, he has mowed down opposing hitters. He only threw 2.1 innings with GCL West before he moved up to Connecticut. There, he tossed 14.2 innings with a 19/3 K/BB ratio and a 0.61 ERA.
That, understandably, lead to a promotion to West Michigan. In 12.2 innings there, he posted another elite 13/1 K/BB ratio and a 0.71 ERA. That got him one appearance with Lakeland, where he struck out four, walked two and gave up just one hit.
Obviously, 32 professional innings for a 23-year-old kid facing much younger competition is too early to make any rash judgements. DeCaster isn’t necessarily the next…..uh…. Joe Jimenez? I guess? However, it’s very encouraging to see his dominance continue into the lower levels of the minor leagues, and his control is a great sign.
DeCaster will probably start next season out at High-A. If he pitches well there, he could be a quick-to-the-majors bullpen piece, although the Detroit Tigers will surely want to see him have sustained success at Double-A and Triple-A before he gets a shot.
At the end of the day DeCaster is probably a middle reliever, at best, in the show. However, Detroit’s best 18th round pick in history is Bob Strampe, who threw 4.2 career innings and gave up six runs on seven walks.
It wouldn’t take much for DeCaster to top that, which would make him the team’s most successful 18th round pick of all-time. Something to shoot for.