The Tigers will promote pitching prospect Reese Olson to make his Major League debut prior to Friday’s game against the White Sox, manager A.J. Hinch announced to the team’s beat this morning (link via Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press). He’ll step into the vacated rotation spot of lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s on the injured list due to a ruptured pulley in his left index finger.
Olson, 23, came to the Tigers by way of a 2021 trade that sent lefty Daniel Norris to the Brewers. He entered the season ranked 11th among Detroit farmhands at Baseball America and 12th on Keith Law’s list over at The Athletic. BA’s report credits him with four average or better offerings — headlined by his changeup — but inconsistent command. Law notes that Olson’s velocity fluctuates at times as well, with his fastball sitting 93-95 mph some days but in the lower 90s on others. There’s starter potential if he can more consistently locate his fastball and throw it at the higher end of its velocity range, but just about any scouting report on Olson will peg him as a viable multi-inning bullpen option at the very least.
The 2023 season started out in brutal fashion for Olson, who was tagged for 17 earned runs through his first 8 2/3 innings across four starts. He’s since righted the ship, pitching to a 3.00 ERA with 32 punchouts against a more problematic 15 walks through his past 27 frames. The right-hander’s most recent start saw him hold the Nationals’ Triple-A club to one run on four hits and no walks with a hefty 10 strikeouts through five innings pitched.
Given that Rodriguez is being shut down for at least a week before he’ll even be reevaluated, it seems quite likely that Olson will be afforded the opportunity to make several starts in his first look at the big league level. He’ll step into a rotation that currently includes veterans Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen, as well as a pair of former top prospects still hoping to establish themselves: Alex Faedo and Joey Wentz.
There’s enough uncertainty at the back of the rotation that with a strong start to his MLB career, Olson could claim a long-term spot in the rotation even when Rodriguez returns. Faedo has pitched to a 5.54 ERA in his first 26 innings — a nearly identical mark to the 5.53 mark he turned in through 52 2/3 frames a year ago in his MLB debut. Wentz’s struggles have been even more pronounced, as he’s currently lugging a 7.80 ERA through his first 10 starts this season (42 2/3 innings).
Even if he’s in the big leagues to stay, Olson won’t be able to accrue enough service time in 2023 to reach a full year. The Tigers would still control him through at least the 2029 season, although future optional assignments could push that timeline to free agency back even further. Detroit will need to make a 26-man roster move to formally recall Olson from the minors, but he’s already on the 40-man roster, so they won’t need to make a move in that regard.