Ethan DeCaster, former Mounds View pitcher, is making a meteoric rise through the Detroit Tigers minor league chain since finishing his college career 13 months ago.
DeCaster, already in Triple A, one rung from the majors, was the subject of a recent feature story in the Detroit Free Press.
“Yeah, it’s been kinda crazy,” DeCaster acknowledged to sportswriter Jeff Seidel in the June 24 article.
The 24-year-old relief pitcher, drafted by the Tigers out of Duke University in the 18th round in 2018, currently is wearing the colors of the Toledo Mud Hens. That’s his sixth pro uniform, and third this year, as he climbs the ladder in the organization.
DeCaster, a 2013 graduate of MVHS, has pitched 13 innings in seven appearances for the Mud Hens, with a 1-1 record, one save, a 3.46 earned-run-average, and 17 strikeouts against three walks.
Before the call-up to Toledo, the 6-3, 190-pound right-hander posted a 3.07 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings for Lakeland, FL, in Class A, then moved up to Erie, PA, in Class AA, where he sparkled in 14 appearances, compiling a 1.52 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. (He had no decisions at either place).
Erie manager Mike Rabela said it’s “mind-boggling” how far DeCaster has advanced. “I don’t know how many other players have gone to Triple-A less than 365 days after being drafted,” Rabelo told the Free Press. “That is absolutely amazing.”
In 2018, after being drafted by the Tigers in the 18th round, DeCaster pitched in 31 games for three teams, notching 56 strikeouts against just 10 walks in 51 1/3 innings, with a 2.28 ERA and a 2-2 record with one save. He moved up from rookie league (Connecticut) to Class A short (West Miami) to Class A full (Lakeland).
Tigers minor league pitching coordinator A.J. Sager told the Free Press: “He has been very effective, produced really, really well for us through the system.” Sager added that DeCaster at 24 is more mature than a lot of minor league players. While Caster does not have great velocity, he has shown excellent control of a variety of pitches, hitting the corners on both sides of the plate. His 8-to-1 ratio of strikeouts to walks is “off the charts,” Sager noted.
DeCaster commented that he’s been in 15 different hotels in the last two months and always keeps a bag packed. Not that he is complaining.
In high school with the Mustangs, DeCaster had a 7-2 record in his junior and senior seasons, striking out 51 in 58 innings, according to his Creighton University bio. He helped the Mustangs reach the 2013 state tournament but didn’t get to play due to an injury.
He pitched three seasons for Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where he switched from overhand to sidearm after an arm injury as a freshman. With the Bluejays, DeCaster pitched in 75 games, logging an 8-5 record, nine saves, 78 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings, and a 2.46 ERA per nine innings.
With one more year of eligibility, the business major transferred to Duke University in North Carolina as a graduate student. He was an instant sensation for Duke, allowing no runs in his first 22 innings.
He finished with a 6-0 record and five saves in 27 appearances with a 1.34 ERA, striking out 57 (with just six walks) in 53 2/3 innings. By that time he had been drafted, and after Duke lost out in the super regional, he moved right into his first post-college job, with the Tiger organization.