Sunday, June 5, 2016

Another Look at Sean Reid-Foley

Clutchlings photo
   Florida HS RHP Sean Reid-Foley was the Blue Jays 2nd round selection in 2014.  Projected by many as a first round talent, his stock dropped due to sign-ability concerns, but the Blue Jays were able to dissuade him from a commitment to Florida State after selecting him with the 49th pick.
   Reid-Foley made his pro debut in the GCL, and in something of a surprise opened last year with full season Lansing.  He caught a heavy dose of helium and soared up many rankings with a breakout year.  
   Reid-Foley has missed a lot of bats in his brief pro career, striking out well over a batter an inning.  He's also missed the strike zone a fair bit, which may be one of the reasons he found himself back in Lansing to start this year after a late-season promotion to Dunedin last year.
   Even with his premium velocity, the knock against Reid-Foley has been his fastball command, which seems to disappear from time to time.  He will cruise along for several innings, then lose the strike zone.  Scouts have suggested that he lacked the experience last year to know how to make adjustments to his delivery from inning to inning, driving up his pitch count, and forcing an early exit from some games.  He's had some ups and downs since returning to Michigan (four four-walk outings in 9 starts), but things have been starting to come together for him.  

I charted Blue Jays prospect Sean Reid-Foley's May 31st start against Dayton, almost exactly a year to the day that I charted another start against the same opponent.  

One thing was obvious from the last prolonged look I had at Reid-Foley:  he has altered his delivery somewhat:

   The top GIF is from his start against Dayton a year and a day ago, while the bottom one is from that May 31st start.  As you can see, in the top animation, he is perpendicular to the hitter at the start of his windup, and makes a deliberate stepping on the rubber with his back leg motion before initiating his front leg kick.
   In the bottom video, he begins almost in a stretch position on the mound, and appears to be standing on the 3rd Base side, and he stands at a 45 degree angle to the hitter - similar to Marco Estrada and (from the left side) David Price. What's harder to pick up is the fact that in the bottom, he has a separation of his hands at the start of his windup - he removes the ball slightly from his glove as he goes into it.
   Lansing pitching coach Jeff Ware says that the changes to Reid-Foley's delivery were made at instructs last fall, and were done to simplify things for him, reducing some moving parts from his windup into a streamlined version that would be easier to repeat on a more consistent basis. I saw Reid-Foley pitch a few innings in spring training at the Phillies minor league complex in March, and while I noticed a more streamlined delivery, I didn't realize the extent of it until I looked at last year's video.

   This start, in essence, saw three Sean Reid-Foleys: over the first four innings, he was a fireballing control artist, painting the outside corner with a fastball that touched 95, and featuring a curveball that was always lurking when he got to two strikes on a hitter.  Reid-Foley retired the first 12 hitters he faced, needing only 42 pitches to do so.
   In the 5th, things unravelled a bit for him.  Dayton hitters were more aggressive, and began to hunt his first-pitch fastball.  Leadoff hitter James Vasquez broke up Reid-Foley's perfect game by sharply lining the first pitch of the frame to CF. A one-out infield single by the third hitter came around to score when the fourth hitter of the inning sat on Reid-Foley's curve, and lined one down the right field line for a two-run triple.  A 55-foot curveball eluded Lansing C Justin Atkinson, and allowed a third run with two outs to score.  Reid-Foley threw 26 pitches in the inning.
   He went to his curve far more often in the 6th and 7th, retiring 6 in a row on only 16 pitches.  Reid-Foley pitched into the 8th inning for the first time in his career, and struck out the last two hitters he faced, tying his career high of 10.  He set down the final 10 hitters he faced in order.
   Down 3-2 heading into the 9th, the Lugnuts scored a pair of runs, and closer Dusty Isaacs slammed the door shut on Dayton in the bottom half of the inning, saving the game for Reid-Foley, and evening his record at 3-3.  Take away that 5th inning, and he was perfect, retiring 21 hitters in a row.
   Reid-Foley threw exactly 100 pitches (a high water mark for his career), an astounding 75 of them for strikes.  He recorded 8 groundouts, against only one flyball out - Dayton hitters really only squared him up twice on the evening.  Dayton hitters swung and missed at 14 of his pitches, and threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 27 hitters he faced, and got to 2 strikes on 18 of them.  That  3-run 5th inning was the only time he had trouble staying ahead of the hitters.
   Reid-Foley threw primarily that fastball, moving more to the curve as he began to tire, and threw in a few sliders and the odd change to show hitters a different look.  It's that fastball/curve combo that was at the heart of his arsenal tonight.  He threw both consistently for strikes.

   It will be interesting to see where Reid-Foley's career trajectory takes him from here.  In the short term, you would have to think that he finds himself in Dunedin before the end of the season, while in the long term, there have been comparisons to Jonathan Papelbon in terms of his potential as a back end of the bullpen arm.  Results like this, however, will keep him in the starting rotation for some time to come, and won't see him in Lansing much longer.

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