When the Cubs signed reliever Sheldon Reed out of Clemson as a non-drafted free agent in 2020, he did not pitch at all that year. And it wouldn’t be until 2021 when he made his debut. Since then, Reed has quietly gone about his business and is probably a guy who should be on your radar for 2023.
In 2022, Sheldon Reed had an outstanding first couple of months at Myrtle Beach before he was promoted to South Bend. In eight games, he threw nine innings and did not allow an earned run.
When Reed got to South Bend, the 6-foot-2 righty had some struggles the first few weeks. He had a 13.50 ERA in June and you could see some things starting to click for him in July before he starting to locate his fastball and slider better. He finished August with a 3.12 ERA and ended September with a 3.00 ERA and was nails in the playoffs as he did not allow a run in three games and got the final out for South Bend’s title.
In the Arizona Fall League, Reed had some ups and downs as he struggled against advanced competition at times but he rebounded well enough to have a 4.32 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 8.1 innings.
Right now, Sheldon is probably best described as someone who’s at a tipping point in his career.
There are five things he needs to do to get over the hump in 2023.
1. Spring Training
Relievers have to have short memories and Sheldon is going to have to focus on the grind of how close he is to the majors. I don’t know whether he’s going to start next year at South Bend, which is possible, or Tennessee, which might be another destination. What’s going to determine his placement next year will be what happens in spring training. He’s already got a fastball that he can throw 95 to 97 and that goes along with a slider. Whatever he’s working on this winter is going to have to be a pitch that complements the other two. But will it be a good enough pitch on its own to get outs regardless of what the other two pitches do?
2. What Happens in Spring Training, Stays in Spring Training
As soon as opening day arrives, no hitter is going to care what a pitcher did in Mesa or in Florida. What matters is what happens in that first game and that’s all that matters.
3. Location, Location, Location
Hitting his spots is going to be his objective this year. He’s not going come in and have a 0.00 ERA for the first two months of the year wherever he goes. But he can come in and do well if he can spot his fastball because everything works off that pitch. Whether he’s up in the zone, down and away, or even throwing in on the hands, he’s got to put the ball where he and the catcher want it.
4. Surprise Is the Essence of Pitching
It’s hard to believe how much scouting takes place in the minor leagues now. It used to be there was none when you went to face another team unless you kept a notebook on them. Now, everybody shares the same trackman data that is consistent in each ballpark. So, not only do you get the data on your team, you also get it on every other team. So, doing something that’s not in the track man data can be a good thing, or it can be an awful thing especially if that pitch leaves the yard
5. Confidence and a Short Memory
As a back of the bullpen arm, you really have to believe in your stuff to throw it 95 to 97 miles an hour at the end of the game to get guys out. That confidence will relax you and allow your muscles to do what they are used to doing. Tension affects it and so does adrenaline. And having a short memory also helps because you can just forget about either giving up a hit, walking a guy, or a home run. A pitcher just needs to focus on that batter and forget about the last guy. Even with a guy on first, you can keep them close, but the guy at the plate is more important when you only need a limited amount of outs.
I’m excited to see what Sheldon Reed can do next summer. I’m hoping that he’s at Tennessee, but it’s not 100% a given. Considering the depth of relief pitching a Cubs have in the upper half of the system, I’d say it’s about a 50-50 shot between beginning 2023 at South Bend versus Tennessee. As I said earlier, spring training will determine where Sheldon Reed starts the year and Sheldon Reed’s performance will determine where Sheldon Reed ends it.