The Toronto Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect is known simply by three letters. SRF. Just one year after a disastrous Florida State League debut, Sean Reid-Foley is back in Dunedin. This time, however, he is hotter than the Sunshine State’s summer, as one of the best pitchers in the league.
A strong senior season at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida put Reid-Foley on the map as an intriguing first-round candidate in the 2014 MLB Draft. SRF fell just a bit, however, and the Blue Jays were able to snag him 49th overall in the second round. They signed him to a somewhat-lofty $1.128 million bonus, keeping him away from Florida State where he had previously committed. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he had the projectable frame — backed by an exciting fastball — that scouts enamor.
His career started off with a nine-appearance stint in the Gulf Coast League that same 2014 season he was drafted. He made three appearances out of the bullpen sprinkled in between six starts. His bullpen outings were outstanding as he went eight innings, allowing no runs on just four hits while striking out eight and walking one. Still, behind an array of pitches that were already fairly advanced at 18, the Jays still saw a starter in him.
His 2015 was a wild one. Quite literally. Reid-Foley walked an alarmingly-high 67 batters over 96 innings pitched across two levels. Serious concerns about his command and place in the rotation quickly surfaced.
SRF’s sophomore campaign didn’t start off so badly. He made 17 starts in the Midwest League at Lansing. He posted a 3.69 ERA and struck out 90 behind an electric fastball and slider in 63 innings. Most loved his fastball and the development of his slider, but there were serious questions with his throwing mechanics and consistency in his secondary offerings, which often got him into control troubles.
The Blue Jays disregarded those concerns and moved forward, promoting the 19-year old to the Florida State League. Every one of those concerns came to fruition as SRF was shelled over eight starts in which he only lasted a combined 32.2 innings. He allowed 19 earned runs on 25 hits, while posting a 35-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio, or a mark of 6.61 walks per nine. Those kind of numbers would get any young pitcher in trouble.
This season, Reid-Foley headed back to Lansing to start the season, with ironing out his delivery the focus of his attention. His issues came primarily in his arm action, often throwing across his body instead of simply coming at the batter and unleashing his mid-90s fastball downhill. SRF was always an aggressive pitcher, never afraid to challenge an opponent and often rising to the challenge. He simply had to find his way and become consistent with his powerful arsenal.
He seems to have worked out the kinks.
Reid-Foley was pretty good in his 11 starts at Lansing his second time around, going 4-3 with a 2.95 ERA and 59 strikeouts, while walking a career-best 3.41 per nine, cutting last year’s walk numbers in half. He again earned a promotion to the Florida State League, and this time around, SRF is all business.
The 20-year old righty is in top form, posting career-bests across the board. Heading into Wednesday’s action, Reid-Foley is 5-1 over his first eight starts in the FSL, posting a 2.03 ERA and a microscopic 0.78 WHIP, both career-lows. He is striking out 10.91 batters per nine (with 59 in 48.2 innings) while limiting batters to a .158 batting average against. His improved secondary stuff — especially his nasty slider which, many consider his best out-pitch — has led to the highest ground ball rate of his young career at 1.58.
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