Tuesday night, I was on hand at Four Winds Field in South Bend to watch the South Bend Cubs and the Lansing Lugnuts in Midwest League action. A heaping helping of Blue Jays prospect Sean Reid-Foley was on the menu on a gorgeous Midwestern night.
It was clear from the onset that the scouts in attendance were focused on getting a look at the young strikeout artist and I was no different. The 2014 second round pick out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida was supposed to be among the most advanced high school arms in his draft class. Toronto clearly believed in his ability to survive against older competition as they assigned Reid-Foley to Lansing in April rather than hold him back for warmer weather or additional instruction.
He has certainly held his own so far this season. Following this outing, Reid-Foley now has 79 strikeouts in 54.1 innings with a 3.48 ERA. The strikeouts only tell part of the story, however, as he has also walked 40 contributing to an unsightly 1.62 WHIP.
Listed at 6'3", 220, Reid-Foley has a strong, mature frame that is built to log innings. His delivery is solid as he generates good torque to help fuel his power arsenal. Additionally, his head is fairly steady throughout the process which should help him achieve the necessary command to succeed at the highest level. He does have some arm wrap, but overall the arm works well. His plant foot lands on the third base side of the mound which is a bit inefficient. A more direct line to the plate could help improve his consistency. Overall, there is much to like from a pitcher who won't turn 20 until August.
Reid-Foley came out of the gate strong on Tuesday striking out the side in the first inning. He sat 92-94, reaching 95-96 a handful of times in the first. Although he did not maintain his peak velocity for the entire outing, this version of Reid-Foley was quite impressive as he clearly overpowered hitters at times on the strength of the heater.
As the game progressed, he settled in more consistently in the 90-93 range. Even at that velocity, his fastball is still a load for players at this level to handle. The pitch features good arm-side run and there was minimal hard contact against Reid-Foley on the night. He showed the ability to work both sides of the plate and purposefully elevate when needed. The pitch should be an easy plus offering at maturity between the peak velocity, movement, and ability to locate within the strike zone.
Although he worked primarily off the fastball, Reid-Foley clearly has a plan for when to utilize his slider and change up as well. The slider worked in the 85-87 range and was used primarily against right-handed hitters. The pitch had solid two-plane break and was frequently well located flashing plus at times.
The change was a little more inconsistent although it had its moments as well. Operating in a similar velocity band to the slider at 84-86, the change was used mostly against lefties. He had moments where the pitch flashed at least average including a couple swing and miss offerings. The best change of the night was a little slower at 82 with good fade.
The fourth inning offered a glimpse into the version of Reid-Foley that is responsible for his poor walk rate so far this season. He fell behind the first three hitters resulting in two walks and a ground out. He appeared to be tiring by this time and struggled to keep the ball down in the zone at times during this stretch. He battled through and kept the Cubs off the board in the fourth, stranding the bases loaded. Despite two singles in the fifth, the Cubs were again denied. Reid-Foley departed after 5 innings, having allowed just one run on seven hits, two walks, and six strikeouts.
There is not much physical projection remaining, but the quality of the present stuff does not require projection so much as consistency to see a big league future. I believe this profile will work in the middle of a major league rotation in the future. He clearly has some issues to iron out with respect to control and his secondary pitches, but those are things that should be worked out with time.
It will likely take a few years for him to polish his game, but he should be worth the wait. It's not hard to imagine Sean Reid-Foley eating up innings in the big leagues down the line.