Addison Reed began the year at the lowest level of full-season Minor League baseball. He ended it on a Major League roster.
The right-handed White Sox prospect put together a 1.26 ERA across four Minor League levels, then pitched to a 3.68 mark in 7 1/3 Major League innings. For his spectacular rise, he was named the MiLBY winner for Best Overall Reliever.
"I thought that I had a chance to maybe make it up to Double-A, and then every time I got moved up, I made it a personal goal to not go backwards and to go forwards," Reed said. "I got up to Double-A and once I got there, I just kept doing my thing and said to myself, 'Do the best that I can and make it hard for them to keep me there.'"
Though Reed was rarely used in save situations, it's safe to say he was among the most dominant bullpen arms at each stop he made in the Minors. His 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem represented the high marks of his season, while his 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings at Triple-A Charlotte were the so-called low.
"I think obviously a great arm is the first thing that comes to mind," said Double-A Birmingham pitching coach J.R. Perdew, describing what he saw from Reed. "He's got some deception. That great arm, that stuff, good deception -- hitters didn't take very good swings against him. And also he had very good poise, mound presence. He was very impressive, very under control."
After striking out 44 in 30 Rookie League innings in 2010, Reed proved that his swing-and-miss stuff carries over against tougher competition. The 22-year-old right-hander fanned 111 total batters in 78 1/3 Minor League innings and went on to whiff 12 in the bigs. He also displayed excellent control, walking just 15 combined batters through all five levels.
"It's a combination of fastball velocity and the deception in his delivery," Perdew said. "The ball kind of jumps out of his hand -- he's got a dip-and-drive delivery. It takes off on hitters up in zone a lot. And third, he's got really good fastball command. And a pretty good slider with good break. That's four good reasons why he gets a lot of swings and misses."
"My gameplan is just to attack the hitter and see what they can do," Reed said. "If they get a hit in three out of 10 at-bats, they're a Hall of Famer. So seven out of 10 times they're hopefully going to get out. My biggest key is I hate walking guys. My mind-set out there is attack the zone, keep it low and try to throw strikes."
Drafted in the third round in 2010, Reed relies mostly on a fastball-slider combination, with an improving change-up. According to Perdew, it was easy to see from his stuff that he wasn't long for Double-A.
"I knew he was going to get out of there," he said. "I thought when he started showing the ability to stay on top of the slider and was developing the change-up, it was time for him to go. [The White Sox] even asked me if he was ready for the big leagues and I said yes."
Reed's time with Chicago was mostly spent in a mop-up role, coming in when the team was already well behind. His immediate success did, however, appear to earn him some trust with then-manager Ozzie Guillen. In his sixth outing, Reed entered a game against the Kansas City Royals in the seventh with the White Sox trailing by two runs. He tossed 1 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two.
"It doesn't matter the score, I just wanted to get out there and prove to people I could pitch out there," Reed said. "As long as I'm out there on the mound, I'm happy."
With talk of a youth movement coming in Chicago, it is easy to envision Reed playing a role with the big league club in 2012. Though he might not be given closer duties right away, Perdew thinks that position will come along sooner or later.
"[His ceiling is] as high as he wants it to be, honestly," he said. "He's got a really good work ethic, a good head on his shoulders, poise, physical talent and mental ability also. I think he can go as high as he wants. He's got a chance to be a really good Major League closer and to be able to do it for a long time."
David Heck is a contributor to MLB.com.