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Sean Reid-Foley Dominates Dayton

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On Saturday night, Blue Jays pitching prospect Sean Reid-Foley took to the mound in Dayton, and turning in easily his best professional start. Working a career high 5.2 innings, he shutout Dayton allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out 10 of the 19 batters he faced. In all, Reid-Foley threw 74 pitches, 47 strikes for strikes (63%). Dayton batters swung at 33 pitches, missing 19 of them. That makes for a ridiculous contact rate of just 42%, and an eye-popping swinging strike rate of 25.6%.

For some sense of how good his raw stuff was in this outing, the video below of Reid-Foley disposing of three hitters on a dozen pitches at the 2013 Perfect Game All American Classic is a pretty good indiction:

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Below, there's also video of him striking out his last batter of the outing the batter, since Dayton has very high quality video of their games, rare for the Midwest League.

Reid-Foley overwhelmed the Dayton hitters with his fastball, and even when they could touch it they couldn't do much of anything with it. It sat 92-96 on the Dayton stadium gun, mostly 94-96 early and more 92-94 from the third inning onwards. It got at least 14 of his swinging strikes. He also got several whiffs on his change-up, which he was really happy with and said he mixed in 10-12 times. I only noted about a half-dozen, and you can decide for yoursely to what degree that speaks to my competence or to how well he was throwing it that it was hard to tell. He mixed in his breaking ball a little bit, but mostly early in the count to try and get ahead than as a putaway pitch. Apparently, it was his slider, but to me it seemed to have more curveball movement.

Reid Foley started the game on a high note, striking out the first two batters on 11 fastballs, though falling behind both. He then allowed his only hit of the game to Gavin LaValley, a harmless looping single. He then fell behind again, 3-1 to Arvin Rachal, coming back with back to back called strikes to catch him looking.

After a 28 minute rain delay (which surprisingly did not shorten his outing), he was not quite as sharp in the 2nd. He allowed a decently hit line drive which was caught followed by a routine fly ball, before whiffing the last batter to strikeout on a 1-2 pitch.

By the third inning, he was fully in rhythm, the first batter fouling out to the catcher. After falling behind Nick Benedetto 2-1, he blew three straight fastballs by him for his 5th strikeout. Ronald Bueno had no more success, taking a called strike at 94 before flailing at two straight to end the inning. Reid-Foley started the fourth in similar manner, three straight swinging strikes on his fastball, slider and fastball. Fairly routine groundouts were sandwiched around a 5-pitch walk.

The fifth started with two swinging strikes on the fastball, ending a few pitches later with another strikeout. A routine groundout and flyout on eight pitches made for a quick inning. Reid-Foley came back out for the 6th, and after falling behind Nick Benedetto 2-1, got him to swing through a change-up and then fastball at 93 for his 9th strikeout. He then blew away his last batter of the night on three pitches:

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I wish the video went about 10 seconds longer, for as he getting ready to face the two-hitter Luis Gonzalez, Ken Huckaby made his way out of the dugout as Reid-Foley hit his pitch count. When he saw Huckaby, a bemused smile broke out on his face, along with an exclamation that can best be summed up here as "Oh Farrell!". He definitely wanted to finish the inning, and why not, as he'd already struck out Luis Gonzalez twice.

To be fair, as good as Reid-Foley was, some of this was about the batters he faced. The 9-1-2 batters in the Dayton order faced him seven times, striking out swinging each time. Of the 31 pitches they saw, they swung at 15 and unbelievably missed every single one. While one came striking out more than 30%, the other two are only around 20%, so it's not like they've been generally overmatched on the season. But they simply could neither make contact on Reid-Foley's fastball, nor lay off it especially when elevated. Of course, Reid-Foley deserves plenty of credit himself for executing the pitches, especially not leaving them hanging over the plate when elevating.

By contrast, the 3-4-5 hitters were relatively more successful, striking out just one once (looking, not swinging) in six plate appearances, taking a hit and walking. They saw 22 pitches, missing only of the seven swung at. Of the 15 pitches taken, nine were called balls, so they were successful at laying pitches out of the zone compared to others in the line-up. However, even then 1/5 with a BB is not very successful.

It will be interesting to see if this a turning point for Reid-Foley's season. After going no more than four innings in his first four starts, his last time out he worked five and this time 5.2 innings. While he's been able to dominate batters, with 40 strikeouts in 28.1 innings even before this last outing, he also had 25 walks due to struggles throwing strikes and sometimes completely losing the zone. In that respect, it should be noted even in this outing of the 41 pitches taken out of the zone, 27 were called balls (66%). That's a very poor ratio, so there's definitely work to do.

With that said, it's worth remembering that Reid-Foley is just in his first full professional season, and is the first high school draftee in the Anthopoulos era to be assigned directly to full season ball the year after being drafted. He's also being forced to turn over lineups multiple times right away, whereas previous highly drafted pitchers (such as the famed Lansing 3 back in 2012) at this point in their full season debuts were limited to three innings, often times only going 10-12 batters. Reid-Foley is facing a much higher degree of difficulty having to make adjustments much more quickly. This was around the time of year when Daniel Norris broke out in Lansing in 2013, and hopefully this is a catalyst for Reid-Foley to do the same.