Reid’s pitch for pro career pays off with contract from Cubs
Third baseman Bailey Reid knew his baseball career was taking a dramatic turn at Westmont College when the coaches took his name off the batting practice list just before his freshman season.
“For the spring intrasquad, they wanted me to go with the pitchers when I showed up that Monday,” he recalled. “I never touched a bat again.”
His pitches haven’t touched many bats over the last four years, either, prompting the Chicago Cubs to sign the Westmont senior to a free-agent contract last weekend.
Reid will be reunited with Cubs’ minor-league pitching coach Tony Cougoule, who coached him during his first three seasons with the Warriors.
“He’s the one who taught me to pitch, so it seems fitting that he’s going to be by my side while I continue to grow,” Reid said.
Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz recalled Cougoule saying, “Bailey will never play third base for us” after watching Reid pitch at one of the Warriors’ camps before his freshman season. Reid, who had never pitched at Palos Verdes High School, was happy to make the change.
“I knew I had a higher ceiling as a pitcher,” he said. “I’d be an average player at third base, but I knew I could be something great if I worked at pitching.
“By this year, I was topping out at 96 (miles per hour), and I was throwing consistently from 93 to 95.”
Reid, a 6-foot-2 and 205-pound right-hander, did not give up an earned run during his last two seasons at Westmont. Dating back to April 3, 2018, he threw 28 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings with 54 strikeouts.
“The work he put in coming to 2020 to improve his fastball command and velocity was impressive,” Ruiz said. “He also really developed his second breaking ball that is a great weapon in his arsenal.”
During Reid’s four years at the local NAIA school, he limited hitters to a batting average of just .103 with an earned run average of 3.02 and 78 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
Cougoule said Reid would have been drafted last year had his junior season not been shortened by an injury, or this year had the MLB not reduced this month’s draft from 40 rounds to five because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For him to bounce back and be able to do what he did this year and prove that he’s capable of pitching in professional baseball is awesome,” he said. “It’s a testament to his hard work and the time that he’s put in.”
Reid recorded eight saves in 14 relief appearances as a junior and four more during this year’s coronavirus-shortened season. He struck out 20 and allowed just three hits over 9 2/3 innings while pitching to his younger brother, freshman catcher Simon Reid.
Several Major League clubs expressed interest in him including the San Francisco Giants and the Seattle Mariners, but the Cougoule connection made the Cubs’ offer especially attractive to Reid.
“It’s nice to have someone who knows me so well and who can vouch for me,” he said. “I’m head-over-heels glad to have that connection.”
Cougoule credited Tom Myers, the Cubs’ area scouting supervisor, for scouting Reid and developing a strong relationship with him.
“Obviously they (the front office) asked me questions about him,” he said. “I was willing and able to speak highly of who I think he is as a person and who I think he is as a baseball player, what his talent level is and what his future looks like.
“But by no means is Bailey a Cub because of me. He’s a Cub on his merits, and he’s a Cub because our organization really wanted him and thinks highly of him. I think it’s mutual because he had a choice and he picked the Cubs, so I’m really excited about that.”
Cougoule spotted Reid’s potential during the fall practice season of 2016.
“I threw some outings and started pitching better and better,” Reid recalled. “Coach put me on the Driveline program, my velocity picked up, and by the time spring rolled around for the opening weekend, I wasn’t a third baseman anymore.
“It was the dedication of Ruiz and Cougoule, along with one of my dear friends and Westmont alum Rob Hill, in implementing Driveline protocols, and always believing in me, that helped me find my confidence on the mound.”
Driveline is an analytics-based training program located in Kent, Wash. which has worked with several Westmont players. They include Bryce Morison, who won NAIA All-America honors as an outfielder during his senior season of 2019.
Hill revived his pitching career at Driveline, which hired him as an instructor after his graduation from Westmont. The Los Angeles Dodgers hired Hill as a pitching coach in December after he’d worked at Driveline with several of their aces including Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen.
The training helped Reid hit his own stride by this spring.
“I was controlling my fastball and controlling my body better than last year,” he explained. “Last year, I wasn’t as consistent with my body and with how hard I’d try to throw it.
“This year, I really honed in on keeping my body more poised and consistent. That’s the big thing I’ve learned at Westmont.”
Cougoule believes Reid has enough upside to reach the Major Leagues.
“He’s got a fresh arm,” he said. “He’s got a big arm … fastball in the mid-90s with a lot of carry to it, which basically means it stays at the top of the zone and defies gravity, if you will. It doesn’t have the same sink or lose energy because he has a really high spin-rate fastball.
“Then he can really spin a breaking ball at an elite level, both his slurve that he developed this past year and then the slider which has been a wipeout pitch for the last couple years.
“His fastball and his breaking pitches are both above MLB averages as far as spin rate and break … Now it’s fine-tuning those things to get professional hitters out.”
Reid will get time to work on that before his next game since the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled this summer’s minor league season. Nobody will take a better opportunity of that time than the hard-throwing Westmont graduate, his former head coach said.
“I know that his work ethic and drive will allow him to continue to grow in this game,” Ruiz said. “I know how much this opportunity means to him and it couldn’t have happened to a better person.”