Last weekend, Chris and I went to check out Detroit Tigers RHP Reese Olson in his first start at West Michigan. Here is what we both saw.
Chris and I have been going to Detroit Tigers minor league games all season long and be able to provide clips on Tigers Minor League Report. We both have taken notes and been able to chime in various information on social media but for the first time, we are now going to give a live look report, based on the Prospect Live and other sites format.
This report is from our perspective as public analysts, so with all that being said, here is our live look on right-handed pitcher Reese Olson in his start last Friday for the West Michigan Whitecaps against the Dayton Dragons.
Rogelio’s Notes on Reese Olson
Olson looked like he added more muscle to his 6’1, 160 lb frame with stocky shoulders and tree trunk-like legs. Not much else he could add to his frame.
He throws from a high ¾ arm slot as he raises his left knee slightly and rocks back slightly before he drops and drives the pitch home with above-average arm speed. He does have a slight head wack but did not seem to affect his delivery too much as his windup was consistent and repeatable.
There was a lot to like in Reese Olson’s start. His fastball sat at 92-94 with it hitting at 95-96 in the first two innings. The fastball had some good tailing action on lefties and it was a good pitch that he threw for strikes. While it generated just a few swings and misses, one of his four strikeouts was caught looking. Whenever someone did make contact with it, it was weak contact as of his 80 pitches, 53 were strikes, and was able to establish the pitch to get ahead early in counts. It was an above-average offering.
In addition to his fastball, he throws a slider, changeup, and a curveball. Let’s start with the curveball since he did not throw it until the 4th inning. The curve had 10/4 action and lacked the consistency that seemed to unintentionally hang at the top of the zone. It sat around 77-79. He threw just a handful of times to provide a different look but overall, it looked like a work in progress so with further reps and instruction, should be at least fringe-average.
His slider was to me, his best pitch. It was around 85-87 MPH and was able to generate five swings and misses including a strikeout. It had good darting action with late-life on lefties, diving down hard. This has the potential to be a good strikeout pitch.
Lastly, his changeup was around 82-85 with five swings and misses including a strikeout but it was a nice change of pace from his fastball and he uses it to get hitters out in front as evidenced by the ground ball outs and fly ball outs he was able to generate. Good arm speed deception as it is consistent with above-average sink and fade with it.
In the first two innings, he was hitting 95-96 but his last four innings were 92-94. There is a slight reliever risk with his profile because of his fastball speed fading but this was his longest outing of the year ( 6 innings) With the Tigers needing starting pitcher depth badly in their system, he could be seen as a fourth or fifth starter.
Chris’s notes on Reese Olson
Reese Olson is probably at least 20 lbs. heavier than his listed size of 6’1,160, and he has the shoulders and legs to get a little bit bigger, but he’ll never have the frame of a traditional workhorse starter.
He also doesn’t seem to have the fastball shape teams are now coveting from shorter starters, and his pitching mechanics are unorthodox. They begin normally, with a small rocker step and a moderate knee lift to slightly above his belt, but then things get a bit odd. He separates his hands early, holds the ball behind him, and then lands with a stiff front leg as he powers his arm toward the plate.
The whole operation has a violent, catapult-esque feel to it, and it results in a slight head whack, but he repeats his mechanics well and lands in a good fielding position. He also threw plenty of strikes in this outing, landing 53 of his 80 pitches in the zone, and while his command wasn’t pinpoint, he seemed to generally locate his pitches where he wanted to.
Olson tied a career-high with 6 innings in this start, and he showed all four of his offerings. By my count 48 of them were fastballs. He opened the game sitting 94-96 with the heater and touched 95 a few times in the 2nd inning, but he settled in at 92-94 for the rest of his outing.
He only got one swing-and-miss with the fastball, but batters had a hard time squaring it up, with most contact either weak ground outs to the left side of the infield or weak fly balls to right field. The pitch showed above-average sink and solid arm-side run, particularly at the lower end of the velocity band, he seemed comfortable working it inside to both righties and lefties, and he showed some feel for locating it above and below the zone.
His primary secondary offering is his changeup, which sat at 85-87 and showed above-average sink and fade. He maintains his arm speed well, and the pitch mimics his fastball. He struggled to land it at times, but all his misses were low, and he was comfortable throwing it to both righties and lefties. He threw 17 changeups total, and garnered 5 swings-and-misses with it.
Olson threw two distinct breaking balls, with his slider the more effective offering. It sat at 82-83 MPH for most of the game, and he managed three swings and misses on just eight pitches. He did a good job of locating the slider away from right-handed batters, and the one-hit he gave up on the pitch was on a late, excuse-me swing. He didn’t appear to use it against lefties.
His curve sat in the 76-79 MPH range, and he threw just seven of them. The pitch showed quality depth a few times, but most seemed to float near the top of the zone. It has some potential to help him steal strike one, but it doesn’t figure to be an out pitch.
The Detroit Tigers are desperate for starting pitching depth in their system, and they will likely want to continue developing Olson as a starter. He has a chance for three above-average pitches and average control, so there is some #4 starter upside here.
That said, his smallish frame and the violence in his delivery suggest some fairly heavy relief risk. The prospect of Olson in the bullpen is intriguing, though, as the presumed velocity gains in shorter stints could potentially give him three plus pitches and the upside of a setup man.
As always with these reports, these are from our point of view. We try out best to gather the information based on what we see. The grades below are from the 20-80 scale MLB uses.
Chris’s pitching grades:
Rogelio’s pitching grades:
We differed on the changeup grade but overall, we were encouraged by what we saw.