Pleskoff: White Sox have found their closer
Selected in the third round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox, few players have catapulted to the Major Leagues as quickly as 23-year-old right-hander Addison Reed.
Reed, a strong 6-foot-4 inch, 220-pound native of California has assumed the role of closer for the White Sox after having spent parts of only two seasons in the team's Minor League system.
Following in the same baseball program as flame-throwing Stephen Strasburg, Reed was both a reliever and starter for San Diego State University. In fact, Reed closed for Strasburg before becoming a starter for the Aztecs the following season. In 2009, Reed was a perfect 20-for-20 in save opportunities, leading the country in that category.
Prior to converting exclusively to the mound, Reed was a very good left-handed hitting first baseman with power for Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. In fact, according to Anthony Vasquez, his high school coach, "he was one of the best high school hitters I have ever seen. He hit well over .400, set records for extra-base hits, RBIs, and home runs." Reed even lobbied his coach to move the fences in for his junior year. He also pitched for the club.
Vasquez shared his decision to convert Reed from being a home-run hitting first baseman to a closer with me: "In the second half of his Junior year, we were struggling to finish games. Our pitching coach mentioned that Addison had the arm to pitch and suggested that we might try to use him as a closer. He went out to throw in the low to mid-90s, good slider, and incredible command, with awesome results. As a senior, it was a no-brainer to put him on the mound as much as possible, which meant a role as the No. 1 pitcher. He proved that change to be one of the best decisions I have made as a coach." And that is how a young man's life changed forever.
Reed's arrival in Chicago as a Major League pitcher followed a very quick tour through the White Sox Minor League system. He began with Great Falls as a starting pitcher in the Rookie League after having been drafted. He had two very good starts at Great Falls, throwing 30 innings and allowing only 17 hits. He walked only six while striking out 44. Addison Reed had left his calling card. He showed he could miss bats against professional hitters.
Last season, in his first entire campaign as a professional, Reed pitched at four levels in the White Sox organization. He excelled from Class-A to Triple-A before landing in Chicago in September. During his whirlwind tour of the White Sox Minor League system, Reed pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He threw 78 1/3 innings and gave up only 43 hits. He had a combined ERA of 1.26 and a WHIP of .0728. Most remarkably, he followed the path of his previous season, yielding only 14 walks and striking out 111. There was little reason to keep Addison Reed from facing Major League hitters at the end of the 2011 season.
Reed threw 7 1/3 very strong innings out of the bullpen after arriving with the Major League club in September 2011. He had no official won-loss record, but he did get to experience the challenge of facing Major League hitters. In six games, he walked only one and struck out 12. He gave up three runs, finishing with an ERA of 3.68 and a 1.50 WHIP.
This past April, many in baseball felt the White Sox would turn to Reed as the team's closer out of Spring Training. It was not to be, as manager Robin Ventura elected to use left-handed Hector Santiago to start the season. Ultimately, Reed replaced Santiago. Reed may remain in the role for a long, long time.
There isn't anything very complicated about the way Addison Reed approaches hitters. He comes right at them with a four-seam fastball that he throws between 93-96 MPH, generally sitting at 94. The four-seamer is his bread and butter, but he isn't shy about mixing in an occasional slider or even a change up. But those pitches are far less common in his arsenal. He isn't afraid to claim the inside of the plate, moving hitters from their comfort zone. He uses an effective slider to change the eye level and balance of the hitter, but it is basically the fastball that induces the swings and misses.
Among the outstanding attributes Reed brings to the ninth inning is his ability to throw strikes. So far this season in 22 games he has walked only eight batters in 18 2/3 innings. He has struck out 21. He stays ahead of hitters in the count and retains control of the at-bat. That control allows him to dictate what pitch (usually the four-seam fastball) he throws at which location. Commanding his pitches and hitting his locations are major keys to his success.
If there is any concern about Reed, it might be that his command and control are so good that at times he gets too much of the plate. Instead of nipping the corner or locating at the top or bottom of the strike zone, his pitches become too hittable. But without a doubt, the opposition will not walk their way to runs against him. If they score, it will be because they hit their way to pay dirt.
For me it is not coincidental that the White Sox fortunes turned this season thanks to a couple of major accomplishments. Players that scuffled last year like Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham are making positive contributions. Dayan Viciedo is blossoming into the hitter the White Sox expected. And finally, Addison Reed is taking the ball in the ninth inning and consistently closing out games.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.