Blue Jays: Promising Starting Pitching Depth Waiting in the Minors
Sean Reid-Foley is by far the best prospect of all these pitchers. At just 22-years-old, Reid-Foley still has a lot of years to develop and improve his game. The Blue Jays acquired him in the second round of the 2014 amateur players draft.
The big righty was recently called up to the triple-A Bisons and received a very rude welcome from Syracuse. The Bisons starter went just 2 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits, eight earned runs, and two walks. Usually a ground ball pitcher, the young starter produced ground balls at about half the rate he did while in double-A.
While in double-A New Hampshire, Reid-Foley was dominant. Through eight starts and 44 1/3 innings pitched, the right-hander owned a 5-0 record, 2.03 ERA, 54.5% GB%, and a 10.56 K/9. In fact, he never let in more than two earned runs in his double-A starts this season.
While he was roughed up in his first outing for Buffalo, he bounced back decently well in late May. Against the Columbus Clippers, the right-hander managed six complete innings, allowing five hits, three earned runs, and one walk to ten strikeouts.
Overall, the young starter owns an 0-1 record, 11.88 ERA, 12.96 K/9, 28% GB%, and 3.24 BB/9. These numbers, as already explained, are bloated by his poor first start for the Blue Jays triple-A affiliate. However, there are more than a few numbers suggest that big things await Reid-Foley in Buffalo.
First, his LOB% is a terrible 31.3% in Buffalo. While in New Hampshire, he held a good 87.3% LOB%. Therefore, it’s likely just a lack of comfort and high adrenaline that hurt the young pitcher in his first start.
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Further proof of his skill at the triple-A level, his FIP—fielding independent pitching—is a miniscule 1.55. This is incredibly low number would easily be the best number in the major leagues, right now. His low FIP suggests that he has been pitching well but had some bad luck from his fielding. Therefore, one can expect that his ERA will slowly lower back down to a much more impressive number over time—in short, don’t worry so much about his overall numbers right now.
Not to beat a dead horse, but his incredibly high .500 BABIP also suggests that he will eventually come back around. For reference, while in New Hampshire earlier this season, his BABIP was a more realistic .240. Starting for New Hampshire in 2017, it was .318. Eventually his BABIP at Buffalo will be back between .240 and .318.
Through two starts the right-hander has also yet to give up a home run. Amazingly, despite giving up eight earned runs in one game, he never allowed a home run. Limiting the long ball has always been a skill for the young starter. In fact, his HR/9 has only been over 1.00 once in his minor league career—his first year at double-A New Hampshire.
Reid-Foley has strong strikeout numbers in his minor league career. Even with his rough outing in Buffalo, he owns both a good 12.96 K/9 and 29.3% K-rate. Strikeout numbers, coupled with his strong ground ball rate, show the makings of a future impact starter in the majors.
However, the former second round pick is not without his faults. As you might expect from a strikeout pitcher, he has struggled with walks through his minor league career. In fact, even while dominating double-A earlier this season, he held a poor 4.06 BB/9 and 11.2% BB-rate. In my opinion, Reid-Foley needs to improve this facet of his game the most. He needs to learn to command his pitches to make it as a starter in the major leagues. Once he does have this skill, though, he could be dangerous.
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I don’t see a scenario where Reid-Foley sees a major league field this season. It seems he will continue to work in Buffalo and try to prove that he can handle this challenge. From there, I would expect him to start 2019 in triple-A, with a chance to play his way to the majors. Even this is a bit of a reach, though. Don’t be surprised if he was makes the big club in the 2020 season—when he would still be a very young 24-year-old starter.