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No rocket ship, just steady results

Draft : : Story
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Thursday, May 08, 2014

Many high school pitchers shoot to the top of the MLB draft prospect charts like they’re riding a rocket ship. With their draft standing seemingly settled into a slot everyone seems comfortable with, they unleash a couple of 98 mile-per-hour fastballs in front of the right people that lights a fuse and sends their draft stock soaring into the stratosphere.

The rise to the top of the draft board is less dramatic for other highly regarded prospects but in many ways no less impressive. There is something to be said about consistency coupled with measurable improvement along every step of the way, as Florida prep right-hander Sean Reid-Foley can attest.

Regular visitors to Perfect Game’s high school elite prospect rankings know that Reid-Foley’s name has been near the top of the national class of 2014 listings ever since he delivered a couple of 91 mph fastballs while pitching for the Jacksonville Royals at PG WWBA and PG BCS Finals tournaments in the summer of 2012.

Now that his senior season at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Fla., is completed, the 6-foot-3, 208-pound Reid-Foley – a 2013 Perfect Game All-American – sits at No. 8 in the 2014 PG national prospects rankings. Both his prospect and 2014 MLB June amateur draft ranking likely received a big boost last week when his fastball sat 93-96 mph and touched 97 and his dizzying slider was clocked at 89 mph during a Florida high school postseason playoff game.

Reid-Foley feels like he had a “pretty good” spring to wrap up his high school career, despite Sandalwood’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to Hagerty High School in a Florida Class 8A Region 1 quarterfinal on May 1 (the two runs Reid-Foley allowed in nine innings were unearned). He finished his senior season 7-3 with a 0.64 ERA, and an eye-popping 120 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 65 2/3 innings of work.

“I feel like I’ve made the most improvement on the mental side of the game,” Reid-Foley, a young man of few words, told Perfect Game over the telephone this week when asked about any development he feels he’s made in the last three years. And to be perfectly honest, it simply isn’t necessary for the hard-throwing right-hander to say a word as long as he keeps going out and displaying the dominance that he’s shown throughout his high school and Perfect Game careers.

Reid-Foley has signed his national letter of intent with Florida State University, but major league scouts have known about him for too long for him to slip under the radar. He is No. 27 overall in PG’s most recent 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft rankings and PG’s first MLB Mock Draft had the Pittsburgh Pirates selecting him with the 24th overall pick of the first round. Both the draft ranking and Mock Draft were published before Reid-Foley’s outing of May 1.

Perfect Game vice president of player personnel and scouting David Rawnsley noted in Reid-Foley’s PG Draft Focus breakdown that the big right-hander “projects as a workhorse middle of the rotation starter on a winning team” in the major leagues, while comparing him to current big-leaguers like Matt Cain, Jordan Zimmerman or James Shield – pretty decent company to be a part of. Rawnsley went on to write:

“Trolling through the scouting notes in the Perfect Game database on Reid-Foley, one finds references to literally all the different movement a fastball can have: ‘cuts fastball occasionally’; ‘big running life’; good sink at the plate’; can ride ball up over hitters’ hands’. When Reid-Foley learns to harness his ability to make the ball do different things, it will be that movement more than his pure velocity that will get major league hitters out.”

David X. Foley Jr., Reid-Foley’s father (his mother’s name is Beverly A. Reid), served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 30 years before retiring on Dec. 31, 2008. The family moved frequently and Sean Reid-Foley was born when they were stationed in the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean. Sean is the youngest of four children – Hannah, 25; David 23; and Emily, 21 – and David Reid-Foley is a PG alumnus who signed a free agent contract with the L.A. Dodgers in June 2013 out of Mercer University.

“Sean has always been ahead of the game or ahead of the other kids his age since he was a youngster," Foley Jr. told PG this week. He credited that to Sean’s experiences with his brother’s travel team, when coaches allowed him to go out on the field and work with the older boys.

“He’s always been throwing hard, always,” Foley Jr. said. “He’s had that gift, God’s gift, and he’s always been playing with older kids.”

When Reid-Foley was with the Jacksonville Royals at two PG WWBA tournaments and one PG BCS Finals in 2012, he was coached by Mike Jones, a former left-handed pitcher who played parts of four seasons with the Kansas City Royals in the early 1980s. He pitched for several other coaches during his early high school years before landing with Jered Goodwin and FTB Mizuno-Chandler last summer and fall.

PG’s Rawnsley and hundreds of others among the national scouting community had the opportunity last year to watch Reid-Foley pitch on Perfect Game’s three biggest stages: the Perfect Game National Showcase, the Perfect Game All-American Classic and the PG WWBA World Championship – the latter with Goodwin’s powerhouse Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler squad in Jupiter, Fla.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything; it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life and I really felt like I learned a lot from Coach Jered,” Reid-Foley said of his time with FTB. Speaking of his experiences at the PG National and PG All-American Classic, he added, “They were a lot of fun, and I have to thank Jered for all of that, too, because I wouldn’t have been there without him.”

“Jered put him over the top with all the experiences (Sean) got with him and all the different opportunities,” Foley Jr. said. “… And I cannot say enough about the Perfect Game organization with the opportunities these kids have with the showcases – I just think it’s absolutely amazing.”

Following his PG National Showcase performance in Minneapolis and an appearance at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship with FTB Chandler in Marietta, Ga., Reid-Foley hit in rapid succession the East Coast Professional Showcase in Syracuse, N.Y., the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., and finally the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego – all in the first 11 days of August.

Reid-Foley’s fastball topped-out at 95 at the East Coast Pro, 94 at the PG All-American Classic and 94 again at the PG WWBA World. Scouts turned out by the hundreds at those events and their interest remained intense right into the start of the 2014 spring high school season. Foley Jr. said at least 10 to 15 MLB teams were represented at every one of his son’s spring outings.

“At the start of the season, there were a lot of general managers, assistant GM’s and heads of scouting (departments); those were the guys coming to these games,” he said. “It wasn’t the area scouts anymore.”

Foley Jr. said what the MLB front-office people are seeing is the same thing he’s been watching throughout Sean’s young career. He claims no one has ever really tweaked his son’s pitching motion through the years, opting instead to move him on the rubber a little bit or something along those lines instead of changing his delivery or his arm slot.

“It is all very gratifying but it also very humbling,” Foley Jr. said. “Everyone thinks their kid is good … and the thing I like about him is, when I’m around him and seeing what he does he’s very humble. He’s also a big team guy – he’s all about the team – and it’s very satisfying to watch him succeed.”

The afternoon and evening of June 5 promises to be a very eventful one for Sean Reid-Foley and his family in Jacksonville. Sometime around 2 p.m., Reid-Foley will walk across a stage – or a reasonable facsimile of one – and collect his diploma as a graduate of Sandalwood High School.

Later that evening, the first two rounds of the 2014 MLB June Amateur First-Year Player Draft will be broadcast live from Studio 42 of the MLB Network in Secaucus, N.J. By the end of that telecast, Reid-Foley should have a pretty good idea if his baseball career will continue in Tallahassee, Fla., on the campus of Florida State or in a Rookie League camp of an MLB organization.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Reid-Foley said, repeating a common line of thinking shared by the highest-ranked draft prospects. “It’s always been a dream (to play in the big leagues) but I’m just going to take it step by step.”

His father took a little more philosophical approach.

“I’ll just sit there and I take everything in,” Foley Jr. said. “The neat thing is he’s signed his letter of intent with FSU the first day that he could his senior year, so you know you have that in your pocket, and that’s phenomenal; it’s an incredible (collegiate) program.

“It’s crazy, but he’s worked hard and as I like to say he’s put every check in every box that they could possibly ask of him,” he concluded. “He hasn’t had any highs or any lows; everything has been a constant, steady upward plan. … It’s been a nice, gradual incline from the start … all the way to the end; he’s shown what he’s made of.”

Not every prospect’s rise in the ranks resembles a rocket ship. Sometimes, a steady-as-she-goes approach is an equally effective method of operation.

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