Reese Olson has had some eyes on him ever since the Tigers acquired him back in 2021. He's always had nasty breaking pitches, but his fastball was something that was subpar, partly because he couldn't throw it for strikes consistently.
Going into 2023, it wasn't looking very good for him. He was getting lit up in Triple-A. He had a hard time throwing strikes, and when he did, he got hit hard. He had a 6.38 ERA in 36.2 IP in Toledo this year. It was looking like he was destined for the bullpen.
Then, the Tigers called him up out of necessity. They needed a starter because of multiple injuries in the rotation, and he was one the 40-man roster, so it was an easy call-up.
From his first start against the White Sox June 2, you could tell something was different. The swings and misses weren't surprising, but the fastball command was incredibly striking. He looked like a completely different pitcher.
He went through some growing pains. He had a few blowup starts, which contributed to an ERA around 4. But his month of September was outstanding.
He went 3-1 with a 1.44 ERA with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 31.1 IP in September. He had multiple starts in which he went five or six innings deep while only allowing one hit or less. This included a seven-inning shutout against the White Sox on Sept. 2.
The 1.44 ERA was fourth in all of baseball from Sept. 1 through the end of the season. Some of the other names on that list? Gerrit Cole, Tarik Skubal (!!!), Blake Snell, and Logan Webb. Not too shabby.
We've seen how good he can be in this current state. But can he get better? How good can he be?
Well for starters, his fastball could still use some work. He can throw it for strikes now, which is huge, because it allows him to set up those high-spin secondaries. But if he could get some whiffs on that heater...look out.
He's already added some velocity, in addition to have better command with it. He was able to hit 96 with some consistency. But if can spend some time in the lab of Fetter and Lund this offseason and get some ride or some tailing action on that fastball, and get some swing-and-miss, the Tigers could have a gem on their hands.
He also needs to limit the mistakes, something he did very well in September. The long ball was a problem at times. The slider, while having tons of spin, is a pitch that has a tendecy to leak out over the plate. That's something he can work on as well.
What the Tigers have done with Reese Olson is incredible. What he has become since being called up from Toledo is something to behold. What's encouraging is that he could be even better.
If Olson makes the right adjustments, he could easily become a quality No. 2 starter. We're very high on him.