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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Jake Reed

Reed has already played for, and been cast aside by, the division-leading Mets and Dodgers this season.

Orioles reliever Jake Reed throws a pitch in his usual sidearm style
New Oriole Jake Reed’s funky arm slot delivery in action.
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the offseason, Camden Chat published an article about each member of the Orioles 40-man roster. During the 2022 season, we will update on new arrivals after they make it to the roster.

How he arrived: Waiver claim from Los Angeles Dodgers, 9/5/22

Who left: Jonathan Araúz placed on restricted list 9/5/22 and designated for assignment 9/6/22

There are not many players who manage to play for three different contending teams over the course of a season. A player has to have just enough obvious talent that these teams take the effort to acquire him somehow, but not so much consistent talent that they want to keep him.

That’s the world Jake Reed, the latest Orioles relief pitcher, has been living this season. He began the 2022 campaign with the Mets, with an oblique injury costing him the chance at an Opening Day roster. He rode the Syracuse-Queens shuttle in May and June, with a couple of bad command-challenged MLB outings in mid-June seeming to do in his chances of becoming more there.

Reed’s 11.37 ERA was claimed by the Dodgers, who proceeded to pitch him in six games, including calling on him for a save against his former team on August 30. The Dodgers won the game, Reed got the save, and within days he was back on the waiver wire. None of the bad teams chose to claim the 29-year-old Reed, but the then-contending Orioles snatched him up last week. He’s already pitched in two games since arriving and is yet to allow a run.

The Twins system is where Reed worked his way up the ladder after being drafted in the fifth round in the 2014 draft. He has been almost exclusively a reliever ever since. As you might expect for a reliever, he was never anyone’s idea of a top league-wide prospect, but he moved quickly, reaching Double-A at the start of his first full pro season in 2015.

By 2017, Reed was at least on the radar of FanGraphs, where he was the #17 prospect in the system. (Orioles-adjacent note: Lachlan Wells, twin brother of Oriole Alexander, was #24 on this list.) At that time, Eric Longenhagen had this to say about the reliever:

Reed has setup man stuff. His mid-90s fastball will touch 97 and features considerable arm-side run. He also features an above-average slider with slicing two-plane movement. Reed’s arm slot is low and left-handed hitters pick up the ball early out of his hand, which may limit his big-league role in spite Reed’s solid average changeup which, in theory, should mitigate his platoon issues.

The challenge against lefty batters persists on into the 2022 season, with Reed holding righties to a .470 OPS (104 PA) and being socked by lefties for a 1.110 OPS (55 PA) between Triple-A and MLB this season. A nearly-identical trend played out last year. The scouting report had him pegged years ago. No wonder he’s had a tough time sticking on a roster for long. In the era of the three batter minimum for relievers, a guy who is this challenged at getting out his opposite side of a platoon has not got a ton of value.

Yet it’s not like it’s only idiot teams who are trying to make something out of Reed. Along with his spending time with the Dodgers and Mets this year, the Rays also claimed him at one point last year. Those are three successful teams, all of whom probably thought they’d take a crack at polishing the changeup.

This hasn’t worked yet. The Orioles are the latest team to give it a shot, bringing him right up to the MLB level with the expanded September rosters rather than seeing whether they want to work on anything in the waning days of the Triple-A season first. Or maybe they’re just going to really work hard at having him avoid facing lefties. In two games so far, Reed has faced seven batters, all of whom bat exclusively right-handed.

Maybe it will be a short experiment here with Reed, or maybe he’ll stick around a bit. Reed has a minor league option remaining for 2023, so he could be a player the Orioles choose to have around as a Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle guy for next year, if they decide they like what he has to offer. That hasn’t been true of a lot of their waiver claims this year. Guys often end up on waivers in the first place because they’ve exhausted their option years and can’t be sent down.

There’s always something fun about a pitcher with a lower arm slot. The last good era of the Orioles had Darren O’Day. The next good era of the Orioles probably won’t have Jake Reed playing quite as crucial of a role, if he’s even still around at all, but hey, you never know.

Still to come: Cam Gallagher