Chris Reed: A Solution To Dodgers Rotation Woes
Former Los Angeles Dodgers first round pick Chris Reed is living a prospect nightmare — stagnation. Enduring his third season with Double-A Chattanooga, the left-handed pitcher has watched as others have been promoted, demoted, traded and released. His peripherals are all trending in a positive direction, backing up scouting looks on the field. Outside of prized Single-A prospect Julio Urias, Reed is the only other pitcher in the organization who has met or exceeded 2014 expectations. It begs the question, “why is Chris Reed still in Chattanooga?”
The back end of the Dodgers rotation is broken. Josh Beckett and Dan Haren are pitching poorly. Over Beckett’s last five starts, opponents are reaching base at a .400 clip with an astounding .630 slugging percentage. Haren has fared worse. After starting 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA, the journeyman starter has posted an 6.04 ERA in his last 14 trips to the mound. Making matters worse is the season ending ACL injury endured by the Dodgers’ best internal option Paul Maholm. A strength going into spring training, their pitching depth has eroded. Left standing are three or four Journeyman pitchers, a struggling Zach Lee in Triple-A and the aforementioned Reed.
Scouting Reed in 2012, it was about projection. The converted closer worked in three inning increments, stretching out his arm. Scouting the young hurler again in 2013, the pieces began to come into focus. Mixing in three pitches liberally, he worked on building a starter’s resume. It was an uneven season filled with mixed results. Reed’s prospect ranking dropped considerably and he seemed destined to become a reliever. He has since taken a leap forward.
Reed prospect rebirth has been subtle. Compare the two clips below.
2013 Side Profile
2014 Side ProfileThe biggest adjustment for the 6-foot-4, 195 pounder is his new and improved balance point. Gathering at the balance points allows the pitcher to collect energy before driving towards home plate. No longer in a rush, the lefty is able to trade effort for balance and control. In turn, his lower half is now working efficiently. The 2014 version of Chris Reed generates more power from his base, enabling the Stanford alum to minimize wear and tear on his elbow and shoulder.
While his velocity hasn’t increased, mechanical adjustments have improved Reed’s 88-91 MPH fastball exponentially. In previous seasons, the pitch suffered bouts of flatness. Now, the two-seam fastball has evolved into a true sinker with late drop and sharp arm-side run. While Reed is able to control the pitch for strikes, command is a primary issue for the left-hander. The pitch does flatten when left up in the zone. Reed must maintain the pitch low in the zone to be effective.
With Reed’s overall profile improving, it’s worrisome the slider hasn’t seen similar improvement to the fastball. In 2012, it was his most refined pitch. With late, 11/3 break, the 78-82 MPH slider profiled as a potential plus pitch. Fast forward to 2014 and command continues to hold back the projection. Unable to place the pitch on the catcher’s glove, Reed doesn’t pile up the number of swings-and-misses expected. Repetition has led to gradual improvement, but it’s unlikely to become a strikeout pitch at the MLB level.
Not many 20-grade pitches become workable major league offerings. Such is the case with Reed’s 80-83 MPH change up. In half of the games scouted this season, the pitch was his baseline to success. With good motion deception, moderate speed differential and arm side bore, Reed can keep right handed hitters off-balance and honest. The pitch does flatten out considerably up in the zone. When the former first round pick has a feel for the pitch, it completes the profile and allows Reed to project as a MLB starter. However, feel comes and goes, weighing down the profile.
For prolonged success as a Major League starter, Reed needs to change eye levels. Most pitchers use a curve ball to accomplish this. Reed’s 3/4′ arm-angle is not ideal to throw a curve. Better fastball command would allow Reed to flash a waste pitch up in the zone without risking hard contact. And while command has improved, it’s not there yet.
The biggest difference between pitchers in the Minor Leagues and their counterparts in the Major Leagues is consistency. Chris Reed is almost there. He’s a better option today than the banged-up Beckett and diminished Haren. And while the Dodgers are likely to fill this hole from outside the organization via August trade, Reed deserves a cursory look before dealing assets to acquire a veteran starter.
Tool Present Future Projected Role 4th Starter On First Division Team Fastball 55 60 Slider 50 55 Change Up 40 50 Control 40 45 Command 35 40
Owning Chris Reed
In fantasy baseball, pitchers nearing a MLB debut are a market inefficiency. As prospects develop and graduate minor league levels, the ability to project a player’s floor adds value when many owners believe the opposite to be true. Chris Reed is nearing his MLB debut and the left-handed pitcher has the arsenal of a number four starter. While not sexy, every team needs cheap assets further down a dynasty league roster. Reed represents one. Weighing down his ultimate value is the fact Reed projects for a 1.30-plus WHIP at the MLB level. But playing for a strong Dodgers team, it’s possible for him to net a few extra wins each season and post solid strikeout and earned run average numbers given Los Angeles’ home park and NL West opponents who are allergic to hitting. Another possibility is he’s traded to a lesser team and is promoted quickly. In deep dynasty leagues, Chris Reed is worth a flyer and can be had as a throw in at the trade deadline. Take advantage. – Mike Newman
6 Aug 2014 / Chris Blessing / 1
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