Jays From the Couch took in the weekend series of the Toronto Blue Jay’s Triple-A Affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, and walked away impressed with Sean Reid-Foley.
On a sweltering afternoon this Sunday in Syracuse, New York, I left the semi-air conditioned confines of my home and traveled to nearby Alliance Bank Stadium to watch the Syracuse Chiefs take on our beloved Buffalo Bisons. Despite the intense heat and sun, my love of the game brought me to just a few rows behind home plate (the scouts hid in the shadows) to watch the No. 10 prospect Sean Reid-Foley of your Toronto Blue Jays in action for his eighth start with The Herd.
Reid-Foley (sometimes referred to here as SRF) struggled early in his Triple-A season, allowing eight runs in his first start, also against Syracuse. Since then, though, he’s been solid, and after Sunday’s start is now sporting a 4-2 record (the Bisons offense certainly helps) and a 4.04 ERA over 42+ innings pitched.
The Florida Man, still only 22-years old, is in his fourth year with the organization, who drafted him in the second round in 2014. He’s moved quickly through the organization despite a few bumps along the way, but he’s managed to hold his own and eventually conquer every level up to Triple-A.
|AA (||AA (||AA (||AA (||Minors||15||11||4.32||4.68||35||35||177.0||172||92||85||25||73||0||174||1.384||8.7||1.3||3.7||8.8||2.38|
|A+ (||A+ (||A+ (||A+ (||Minors||7||7||3.60||3.70||18||18||90.0||60||37||36||3||40||0||106||1.111||6.0||0.3||4.0||10.6||2.65|
|A (2||A (2||A (2||A (2||Minors||7||8||3.34||4.08||28||28||121.1||100||55||45||5||65||0||149||1.360||7.4||0.4||4.8||11.1||2.29|
Admittedly, I’ve been a big fan of SRF’s along his four-year rise, but have also allowed myself to be critical in my evaluations, which until now, came mostly from MiLB.TV. After watching on Sunday, I’m a bit more confident in him going forward, but one observation does not make the player. There’s still plenty of hurdles for SRF to clear before receiving a cup of coffee with the Blue Jays.
As stated above, conditions on Sunday afternoon in Syracuse were not optimal. The temperature rose to about 95 degrees with a Heat Index over 100. It was clear early on that the majority of fans, umpires and players had little interest in playing in these conditions, but a few things stood out to me from Sean Reid-Foley. After the bottom of every inning, he was the first Bison on the field while the others rested in the dugout. If this were to happen maybe two or three times I wouldn’t think too much of it, but it happened all six times. Despite the conditions, he was fired up and ready to show the Syracuse lineup what he had. A youth spent pitching in Florida probably helped.
While the first batter of the game singled, he didn’t have much to show for Reid-Foley coming out of the gate firing gas.
Reid-Foley pumping gas. 94,95,95,94,95 before gicing up a single.
— Roy-Z 🌵 ☘ (@rolewiii) July 1, 2018
Early on while establishing the fastball, he may have dipped into the well a few too many times. There were two hard-hit balls in the first inning, but eventually SRF began working in a pair of sliders – one upwards of 86 MPH and hard, with a more consistent, lower in the zone, 83-84 slider used more often and with solid results. While there were some ugly swings against the slider, there wasn’t a vicious knee-buckling action from the Syracuse batters. Horizontal movement was solid, but sometimes the pitch would be flat or poorly-released. The change-up didn’t show up often and didn’t produce any results worth writing about.
Michael De La Cruz and Sean Reid-Foley worked mostly with the fastball and used the slider often against right-handers, who had minimal success against the pitch. While in the past, Reid-Foley’s command had been an issue, it wasn’t on Sunday. His two HBPs came off very hard inside fastballs with arm-side run that clipped the batter’s hands both times as they dove out over the plate looking away. A curious approach as SRF and De La Cruz mostly avoided parts of the plate where batters could extend their hands. He did this to both right- and left-handed batters:
Sean Reid-Foley goes up and in, hits 95. He's touched 96 twice through four innings and notched a pair of K's on the slider. https://t.co/w42OuuNeWm
— Roy-Z 🌵 ☘ (@rolewiii) July 1, 2018
On that fastball usage: much of his success on Sunday came directly from pitching up in the zone. The fringe players on the Syracuse roster (reminder, this is a bad team) struggled mightily with the high fastball, which SRF pumped 94-95 on occasion, hitting 96 twice. When he went low with fastballs in the 92-93 range there was less horizontal movement, but he induced mostly weak ground balls up the middle. Most importantly, however, he avoided the middle of the zone, where even mediocre Triple-A players will take you deep at 92 MPH.
Early on, command was not an issue. Through the first three innings, SRF had no trouble hitting the mitt of De La Cruz, including a few fastballs clipping the corner with late movement for stolen strikes. As mentioned above, though, he hit a pair of batters with fastballs that ran up and in to right-handers and did walk a batter in his sixth and final inning. By then he was at 87 pitches, nearly all of the fans in the stands were either in shaded seats or on the concourse, and he was done.
I'll admit Sean Reid-Foley is facing minimal competition today, but he's making quick work on them. 2 H, 1 BB, 2 HBP through six innings, 88 pitches. He's hit 96 twice, now mostly 92-93. Starting to lose command in the 95° heat. Otherwise very impressive.
— Roy-Z 🌵 ☘ (@rolewiii) July 1, 2018
What I left out above were his hits – just two and strikeouts – five. Neither team hit much, which was understandable with the conditions, but the outing itself was very impressive. Reid-Foley is far from a perfect pitcher, but there’s a lot of talent in that arm, and his in-game drive was commendable. To use one of baseball’s most tired cliches, he’s a competitor out there. It looks like he’s trying to win every pitch, and it shows in his max-effort delivery.
With the potential for some roster movement this summer in the trades of JA Happ, Marco Estrada and even Jaime Garcia, there’s a chance we see Sean Reid-Foley in the majors in 2018. I won’t go as far as to say he’ll have immediate success there, as his command issues can survive in Triple-A, but may be exposed at the highest level. Still, with his seemingly strong work ethic and improvement at every level evident in his statistics, I still believe he can be a useful pitcher at the major-league level, either as a back-end starter, high-leverage reliever or at worst, a swing man.
*Featured Image Credit: R Widrig- JFtC
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.