Thursday, March 10, 2016

Getting to Know Astros RHP Ryan Deemes

One of the (many) reasons that I enjoy talking with ballplayers is that I often learn something about myself in addition to my subject during our conversations. As I talked with Astros 2015 36th round pick RHP Ryan Deemes over the weekend, I learned that I have reached a point in my life where I truly appreciate a good "ma'am." A word that made me feel old when I turned 40 has now segued to a badge of respect and I like it. And Deemes uses that honorific as second nature. He is a soft-spoken, deep-voiced, even-keeled confident Southern gentleman. Oh, and he's also a pretty good pitcher.

Ryan Deemes
(from MiLB.com)

Deemes more or less split his first professional season evenly between rookie level Greeneville and short season A Tri-City. He absolutely dominated at Greeneville, allowing only two runs and one walk in 24 innings of work at the lower level before earning an early August promotion to the ValleyCats. Things didn't go quite as smoothly at the higher level, but he still came out at the far end of the season with a very impressive 2.01 ERA and 0.912 WHIP in 49.1 innings of work. That WHIP was the second lowest mark in the system for a pitcher tossing a minimum of 30 innings.

Of that first pro season, Deemes told me, "It started off pretty good in Greeneville and then moving up was something I was looking for, especially with how well I was doing. Just didn't know when it was going to happen and when the time came, I was ready. (In) New York, I had a few bad outings, but that's baseball. But overall, it was a fun first season for me and I got to experience a lot of different things and got to meet a lot of really cool people as well."

One of those "cool people" was Deemes's tandem pitching partner to start the season, LHP Junior Garcia who was traded to the Diamondbacks in August. "He's a left-hander that threw mid-90's and he's just unbelievable. We became good friends with each other. Once he got traded, we talked about it. I believe he'll be making it in the big leagues in the next few years because of what I've seen. He has a great career ahead of him and I wished him all the best," said Deemes.

Deemes was drafted out of Nicholls State. He described an experience that didn't start out too smoothly. "I spent two years at Nicholls State which is in Southwest Louisiana. It was a crazy one, my first year. I was a weekday starter with relief during the weekends. That year was kind of a bumpy road. Come senior season, I just started concentrating and I was more relaxed with the atmospheres that we always played in. It really started the first weekend. We came out to play Stony Brook and I get a win there and four days later, I start against LSU for the first time and we beat them. My senior year was just a breakout year for me and I felt that helped me a lot to get drafted."

The upcoming draft was not something that Deemes focused on during that senior season. He said, "I heard a little bit from my coaches (about interest from teams), but I didn't really pay much attention to that. I know if I didn't do anything, I wouldn't be getting picked up anyway so I just stayed to what I was doing, not to let the draft or the next level get to me before I finished the season at Nicholls."

Deemes equates his early success to his simple philosophy of pitching. "First thing I always learned was throw strikes, let the hitters make the mistakes. That's really the mindset I go with. Just throw strikes and something good is going to happen for you. That's really all. Just stay through the zone, throw strikes and try not to overdo it when something happens."

And that philosophy helped him achieve one of his main goals going into his first season. Deemes said, "I feel like I showed people what I can do, being such a late rounder and coming from a small school. I wanted to get my name out there and I felt like this past year that I did that and I just need to keep doing that from here on out."

He hopes to carry that forward into the new season. "Just stick with the plan I've always had. Just throw strikes. Just do what I know I can do. Just compete. I feel like if I can compete, everything will go well for me."

That theme continued when I asked Deemes what a scout might tell me about him. "I think he'd say (that I'm) definitely a competitor. I don't give up. If times are going bad or times are going good, I always stay the same. That's what I've always learned to do is don't show your emotions. I attack the hitters. I like to throw strikes. I just compete. When I get on the mound, I don't let anything affect me and I know that I'm the top dog. If the hitter steps in the box, he's going to have a challenge coming to him."

Deemes credits part of that competitive drive and aggressiveness to his days playing high school football. His mindset when he pitches is, in his words, "I don't care what's going on as long as I know that I'm better than you." When he says that, it comes across as confident, not cocky. He knows that being timid on the mound is not going to help him meet his goals.

One of those goals centers around the work he put in over the offseason in squaring up his delivery rather than pitching across his body so that he is able to stay in the zone even more effectively. With that in mind, when I asked my ubiquitous "who has a pitch you'd like to steal" question, Deemes was more interested in learning from the delivery of a certain lefty Cy Young winner. "Dallas Keuchel is a left-handed stud. Everything he's done from the videos I've watched from the last three years, how his delivery has changed so much ... that's pretty much what I'm working on right now. What he's gone through to just maintain his delivery and get it to where it needs to be (in order) to be a better pitcher, I think that's one thing I'd like to get better on delivery-wise."

Deemes's pitch repertoire consists of a 89 to 92 fastball with arm side movement, a changeup that he works off the fastball to either side of the plate and a slider that is a work in progress. "You're never not working on something. You're always trying to make it better. I think the main thing I'm working on is to get my slider to come tighter across the zone instead of a slurve action. I've worked on it a lot, changed some grips and it's started to come a long way in just the past year," said Deemes.

One of Deemes's teammates that I heard a lot about last season came up in conversation. Deemes particularly enjoyed seeing this pitcher follow him into games. He said, "Another Southland (Conference) guy that came out with me. He was an undrafted guy. Jacob Dorris. He's a little crazy arm slot guy. We faced him at Nicholls because we were in the same conference. Just watching him while he was playing at Texas A&M Corpus Christi just was like, 'Wow! That dude's pretty good.' And then, lucky enough, he was on my team for the two teams I played on (in 2015) and when he came in, it was pretty much, 'Well, we know the game's over now!' Somehow with him and his crazy arm slot, he just got people out."

With Deemes, there is nothing really surprising to report. "I feel like what I bring to the table with everybody is pretty much what you get from me. I'm not too outspoken a person. Just do what I need to do. I like to have fun with the guys, especially on the baseball field. I feel like I'm a guy you want to be around and have fun with. If someone needs to talk, we can talk. I'm just always there for everybody."

My last interview was back in December so Deemes helped me shake the rust off and start off my Spring Training. I couldn't have picked a better subject. It was an easy conversation with a polite Southerner who helped me embrace my inner ma'am.

Thank you for your time, Ryan, and best of luck in the coming season.

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For more on Ryan and 272 other players in the Astros minor league system, buy the 2016 Houston Farm System Handbook and download it to your smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop (or all four like me!). The Handbook is both Android and Apple compatible with the free kindle app.



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