Monday, August 01, 2011

Addison's Ascent

In years past when I worked in independent baseball, teams I worked for had players purchased by Major League clubs and assigned to their minor league affiliates. I enjoyed seeing how those guys did and if they'd be able to keep that job for future seasons. Working in affiliate ball, one of the neat things is watching players already in an organization -- for me, the White Sox -- move up the ranks to High-A or even Double-A. Plenty of guys who started the season here in Kannapolis with the Class A Intimidators in the South Atlantic League have since moved up to Winston-Salem. Some guys have even jumped two levels and are now part of the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A squad. But only one so far has reached Triple-A.

Addison Reed.

I got the chance to interview Addison early in the season, which is a good thing because he was not long for the Intimidators. He struck out 11 batters in just 8.0 innings with Kannapolis and just two weeks into the 2011 season, the White Sox moved Reed up to the Dash. Same song, second verse: he was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA (5 ER/28.1 IP) in 15 games with Winston-Salem before becoming a Baron. The former San Diego State Aztec continued to torch opposing hitters. He struck out 33 batters while walking only six in just 20.2 innings at Double-A Birmingham; his ERA was a microscopic 0.87 (2 ER/20.2 IP).

At this point, the White Sox moved last year's third round pick back into the Carolina's, promoted him to Triple-A Charlotte. Reed is now with the Knights and through two games appears to be the same guy who lit up the South Atlantic, Carolina and Southern Leagues in his stops at each level.

This season, Reed is 2-1 with a 1.34 ERA (9 ER/60.2 IP) with 90 strikeouts and 11 walks. Maybe he shouldn't get too comfortable in Charlotte. At this rate, he'll be bound for the Windy City come September.

From Low-A to the Big Leagues in a single year? It's not exactly easy. There's a reason a lot of guys spend a year in rookie ball, then a year in low-A, and then on to High-A, and so on. Making that transition from each level to the next is not easy. As a pitcher, the batters you face get smarter. They remember what you threw them last time. They talk in the dugout about what you're doing on the mound. They go up there with a much higher baseball IQ than the hitters at the level below.

For folks who follow the White Sox system, Addison Reed probably triggers memories of Daniel Hudson who started the 2009 season in Kannapolis before moving to Winston-Salem after just four starts. Hudson reached Double-A by June 20 where he went 7-0 with a 1.60 ERA in nine starts -- in fact he didn't surrender a run in his last 26 innings with the Barons before joining the Knights.

Hudson started 2009 in Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium in Kannapolis, North Carolina, but on September 4 of that year he was making his Major League debut at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Are you kidding me? That doesn't happen all that often.

It may happen for each Major League team once every decade, maybe. But here are the Chicago White Sox with a chance to have a second hurler shoot up the ladder and into the bigs from Low-A just two years after Hudson did it.

Reed has been impressive, obviously. Numbers don't lie -- especially not in baseball. And now he's in Charlotte just one level away. Today is August 1. Minor League seasons end in a month. When that time comes, feel free to look for Reed coming to a major league ballpark near you.

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