Friday, August 14, 2015

Getting to Know Astros/River Bandits RHP Dean Deetz

When Dean Deetz was drafted by Houston in the 11th round in 2014, it was understood that the hard-throwing righthander was a work in progress. His control, which was said to be a bit questionable before he had Tommy John surgery, was perhaps even moreso as he came back from the surgery. But the one thing that wasn't in doubt was his "stuff."

After putting up a less than stellar 8.88 ERA and 1.934 WHIP in his freshman professional season, Deetz impressed in his seven appearances with Tri-City this season (2.86 ERA and 1.129 WHIP in 28.1 IP) and soon found himself promoted to Quad Cities where I spoke with him over the weekend.

Dean Deetz (2nd from left) - August 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Quad Cities Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski hadn't seen much of Deetz prior to the promotion, but he knew of that "background of not necessarily being a strike thrower." Of Deetz's first two outings, Borkowski said, "He's improved from what I've heard from the past. He came here and first time out was pretty good and the second time out was even a little bit better ... a little more aggressive with the fastball and pounded the zone more and threw strikes. So he's heading in the right direction. He's making strides."

Borkowski was likely pleased with what he saw from Deetz in his third outing on Wednesday as well when Deetz was able to put a tough first inning behind him (three walks and a throwing error leading to an unearned run) and allowed only one hit and no walks over the next four innings. Through his first three appearances for Quad Cities, Deetz has a 1.46 ERA and a 1.297 WHIP.

Of the strides Deetz has made in his control/command, he said, "Throwing strikes is a lot harder than it looks, but if you throw strikes, everything's going to work out for you. In the offseason, I wasn't really trying to throw hard because I knew I could throw hard, but it does me no good if I'm not throwing strikes. In the offseason, I just focused on throwing fastballs for strikes. Then I went to Spring Training and Extended (Spring Training) and that's the only thing they really told me I needed to focus on is strikes. From Extended on, I just worried about throwing it in the strike zone and make hitters get hits and not walking them. Focusing on that really helped me a lot."

Borkowski says of Deetz's pitch repertoire, "He has very good stuff -- a plus fastball, good sharp breaking ball." Deetz was known to have hit 98 in junior college with his fastball, and he's hit around 96 or 97 this season even though his focus has been more directed at throwing strikes than on increasing velocity. He throws a 4-seam, 2-seam, a circle change and a slider. Deetz said, "I think my slider's my best pitch, but my fastball (is) really close."

Deetz and the coaching staff have been working on his delivery this season as well. "What we've really tried to focus on this year is using my body to throw the baseball, really driving down the mound, instead of using all my arm because I used to throw all arm which caused my surgery. They want me to focus on using my body more to throw to really save my arm," said Deetz.

When asked what someone who hasn't seen him pitch could expect to see, Deetz told me, "I have attitude on the mound. I really go out thinking that the hitter's not better than me and I'm going to make him prove to me that he's better. I'm kind of a bulldog ... when I get on the mound. I'm going to give it everything I've got no matter what."

As I usually do with pitchers, I asked Deetz who in the Astros system had a pitch he would like to steal. He responded, "If anything, I like Vince Velasquez -- his fastball. He throws really hard and it's 100% effort. And he has spin on his fastball which makes it seem like it rises. My fastball -- it kind of either goes straight or it cuts a little bit. It doesn't really have that rise to it. So, if anything, I think I'd like to have Vince's fastball where it rises a little bit, get more swings and misses."

As to what Astros hitter he would least like to face, Deetz said, "I would probably say A.J. Reed because I don't like to throw to lefties that much. My slider sometimes breaks into them and all I have is my fastball and changeup that I like to throw to lefties. I feel like if I put one in the wrong spot against A.J., he'd hit it a long way." Interestingly enough, even though Deetz may not feel particularly comfortable pitching to lefties, he has had a great deal of success against them this year, holding them to a .155/.238/.197 batting line so far this season.

One thing struck me about Deetz having seen him last year in Greeneville and this year in Quad Cities and that is that he seems much more focused on the job at hand. He still likes to have fun and he confidently told me that he is unequivocally the funniest person in the world, but I sensed a seriousness that I hadn't really seen during his first season. Perhaps that can be attributed to something he said about that tough first season. "I feel like my confidence kind of fades on me sometimes. I used to be really confident, but coming here and struggling my first year really put me down a level and made me really think about what I have to work on to be confident on the mound and get hitters out," said Deetz.

Well, if his 2015 results are any indication, I think Deetz will regain that confidence sooner than later. He may have come into the Astros system as a work in progress, but many of the moving parts that go into making a professional pitcher are coming together for him nicely.

Thank you for your time, Dean, and best of luck as your team heads into the postseason.

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