Last year, there were questions about whether Sean Reid-Foley should have been in the Florida State League. The same questions are back, but now for completely different reasons.
The Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect struck out 10 and allowed only one hit and two walks over six innings Tuesday afternoon to lead Class A Advanced Dunedin to a 2-0 win over Charlotte at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Reid-Foley improved to 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his seventh start with the Blue Jays following a promotion from Class A Lansing on June 16.
Though his pitching line may make it seem as if Tuesday's gem was a breeze, the 20-year-old right-hander admitted it felt like anything but. He retired the first seven Stone Crab batters he faced -- four via the strikeout -- before walking Thomas Milone, allowing a single to Matt Eureste and walking Alec Sole to load the bases. Reid-Foley escaped by getting Grant Kay to strike out looking, kicking off a string of 10 straight retired Charlotte batters that concluded by fanning the side in the sixth.
"I think today happened probably because I was effectively wild," said Reid-Foley, who still managed to throw 57 of his 90 pitches for strikes. "I'd throw two balls here, then two strikes here. I wanted to make them put the ball in play, but there were times when I'd throw the ball nowhere close and then put them away for a strikeout, stuff like that.... You never really plan on those days. It just kind of happened, but it worked out well today."
Control was a worry for the 2014 second-rounder in his first full season last summer as he averaged 6.3 BB/9 in 25 starts (96 innings) between Lansing and Dunedin. As a result, his delivery became a focus this campaign as the Jays sent him back to the Midwest League at the start of 2016 to iron things out. Reid-Foley, who has earned plus grades for his fastball and slider and also possesses a curve and changeup, said he was still working on that delivery throughout Tuesday's outing.
"At times, it was a little too rotational," he said. "I was across my body more than I normally am and pulled a couple of fastballs to my arm side. With my delivery, the main goal is to get through the baseball and throw the ball downhill.... It's not going to be perfect. That's never going to happen. But I need to slow down, find my rhythm. If I'm more in the zone, that'll make guys swing a lot more. I think I can be better than giving up two walks."
The 6-foot-3 hurler's walk rate has plummeted to 2.8 BB/9 between his two stops in 2016, and he surpassed the century mark in innings (101 to be exact) for the first time in his young career, despite making seven fewer starts than he did in 2015. With his 10 K's Tuesday, Reid-Foley moved into fourth in the Minors with 113 punchouts. Since his FSL season debut on June 16, no one in the Minors has more strikeouts than Reid-Foley's 54 in 43 innings.
"It's come down to throwing more strikes," he said of his success. "That's been the biggest key. Last year, I would rarely get past four or five innings at a time. That was really frustrating, but at the same time, it was a learning experience."
Baseball America placed Reid-Foley at No. 84 in its midseason top-100 prospect list and first among all Toronto prospects, ahead of Anthony Alford (No. 86) and Conner Greene (No. 90). (MLB.com will release its top 100 update later this month.) Attention is coming with these eye-popping results, but Reid-Foley would prefer to keep his focus on the diamond.
"Honestly, that's the worst part of the game," he said. "I don't try to get caught up in that or read into any of it. All that matters to me is that my teammates feel confident we're going to win the game every time I pitch. That's all I care about."
Blue Jays reliever Adonys Cardona worked around two walks in seventh, and Dusty Isaacs pitched the final two frames to record his first save for the Blue Jays this season.
Alford went 1-for-2 with two walks, a run scored and a stolen base from the leadoff spot.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.