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Who is Padres rookie Colin Rea?

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Colin Rea in the 2015 MLB Futures Game
Colin Rea in the 2015 MLB Futures Game
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Padres rookie right-hander Colin Rea will make his major league debut today against the Cincinnati Reds. Rea was an obscure prospect six months ago but an excellent 2015 season has vaulted him into the Show. We've actually had our eye on Rea for some time here at Minor League Ball. Back in April we profiled him as a sleeper prospect. What follows here is an updated version of the original report.

Rea was a 12th round pick in 2011 out of Indiana State University. He grew up in Cascade, Iowa, population 2,159 in the 2010 United States Census. Graduating high school in 2008, he was an athletic 6-4, 180 pound stringbean with a loose, projectable arm. However, his mechanics needed cleaning and his best fastball was about 86 MPH. He was on the radar of Midwest area scouts but it was felt that he would be best-served by going to college and getting stronger. He wasn't drafted.

He started off at the University of Northern Iowa but that program was killed by budget cuts after his freshman year in 2009. He transferred to St. Petersburg Junior College for 2010 but did not pitch well due to command issues, with a 7.15 ERA and a 25/20 K/BB in 23 innings. He landed at Indiana State University for 2011 and improved enough (3.68 ERA, 76/48 K/BB in 95 innings, just  69 hits) to earn a spot in the draft.

I had an opportunity to see him pitch in college and he was quite interesting. He had matured physically and was now 6-5, 205, with easy low-90s velocity. His slider and change-up still needed work, an issue which showed up sabermetrically in the low strikeout rate, but there was a lot of raw material for the Padres to work with.

Rea scuffled a bit in A-ball, being hit hard due to command issues in the Cal League in 2013 (6.07 ERA, 45/39 K/BB in 44 innings). However, he took a huge step forward in '14, with a massive reduction in walks (8.16 BB/9 dropped to 2.4) without loss of strikeouts. His secondary pitches (a curveball, a cutter/slider, and a splitter-change) have improved steadily and his command has been even better this year. Rea now throws four decent pitches for strikes, has a workhorse body, and smooth, consistent mechanics.

He made 12 starts for San Antonio in the Double-A Texas League this spring, posting a miniscule 1.08 ERA in 75 innings with a 60/11 K/BB and just 50 hits allowed. This was enough to get him named to the United States team for the 2015 Futures Game. Sent to Triple-A El Paso in July, he posted a 4.39 ERA in 27 innings and a 20/12 K/BB with 29 hits, credible performance for the pro-hitting Pacific Coast League.

And here he is in the majors. Rea has come a long way for a guy who couldn't get junior college hitters out five years ago.