MESA, Ariz. -- As a Stanford alum, Chris Reed's season-long transition from reliever to starting pitcher has predictably taken a cerebral approach.
The Dodgers southpaw, taken 16th overall in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, outlined in his mind the steps he needed to take to make the switch a successful one.
When the 22-year-old missed time this year with injuries that included a blister on his throwing hand and shoulder soreness, he knew he needed to make up for lost time.
Ranked No. 3 on the Dodgers' Top 20 Prospects list, Reed is one of seven Los Angeles prospects playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.
"I asked to play winter ball to build up more innings," Reed said. "I'm still trying to make the change to a starter, and the guys that come here are obviously very talented, so it's about seeing how you match up against them."
The lefty spent his first full professional season this year split between Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga, finishing with a 3.97 ERA in 70 1/3 combined innings in 19 appearances (17 starts).
Reed was pleased with the progress he made in 2012, but said he still needs another season in a rotation to fully grasp the subtleties of being a starter.
"I have a ways to go," Reed said. "It's just a matter of building up innings. I'm feeling good now. I had a little adjustment period to pro ball where I struggled a little bit, but right now I'm feeling good."
In college, Reed used his slider and fastball that touches the high 90s to record most of his outs, but as a starter, he's working on making his third pitch, a changeup, just as good as his first two. He's also tinkering with a cutter that he'll use in select situations.
"Three pitches is the bare minimum for a starter," Reed said. "For me, the slider is my key pitch. My fastball has good movement, but you can't be a one-pitch pitcher. The slider was my go-to pitch in college when I closed, so now it's about adding the changeup. It's not as consistent as I need it to be, though. I'm playing with a cutter a little bit, too, but mainly, right now, it's just the three pitches."
Before making the trip to Arizona for the Fall League, Reed flew overseas to pitch in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic. A native of London, putting on the Great Britain jersey for the first time was a memorable moment for the southpaw.
"That was a lot of fun. That was the most fun I've had playing baseball, actually," Reed said. "I liked it a lot. It was a great group of guys, everyone wanted to be there."
Reed made one start for Great Britain, but a pitch count limited his outing to 2 2/3 innings against a veteran Canadian team. He ended up allowing two unearned runs on two hits, and Great Britain was eliminated from the tournament before he could pitch again.
"I just tried to represent the country. The guys that had been there before me had been working hard to get Great Britain baseball out there for years," Reed said. "Then I came, and I was there for the first time starting the first game. It was an honor. The Canadian guys [we were facing] knew I had a [pitch] limit and they worked the count a little bit. Hopefully, we'll qualify next time."
As for his time in the AFL so far, Reed has struggled a little bit, allowing seven earned runs in his first eight appearances. He is pitching out of the bullpen, however, so he's not particularly worried about the results as much as getting the work in.
"It's more about adding innings, but, obviously, the better I do, it's a perk," Reed said. "I hope I show them I keep making improvements in my game and that I'm ready for higher competition."
Dodgers hitters in the Fall League
With top hitting prospect and Cuban signee Yasiel Puig not playing in Arizona because of a staph infection, Joc Pederson is the highest regarded Los Angeles position player in the Fall League.
Ranked No. 4 on the Dodgers' Top 20 Prospects list, Pederson is a corner outfielder with the ability to hit for both power and average. In 110 games for Rancho Cucamonga this season, the 20-year-old hit .313/.396/.516, with 18 homers, 70 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. For his efforts, the Dodgers named him their Minor League Player of the Year.
As the second-youngest player on the Mesa roster, Pederson has struggled so far against more seasoned competition, collecting just three hits in his first 29 at-bats in Arizona. Regardless of his performance the rest of the way, he should begin the 2013 season in Double-A.
Making his second consecutive stint in the AFL, Gorman Erickson is trying to bounce back from a subpar season for Chattanooga. After batting .275 in 41 games at Double-A last season, the catcher hit just .234 this year and saw his RBI output decrease from 66 to 25.
The 24-year-old has done fairly well for himself in the early goings of the Fall League, batting 6-for-23 with six runs and five walks in Arizona so far.
One of the oldest players on the Mesa roster, Rafael Ynoa hit .278 with 23 doubles and 23 stolen bases in 2012 in the Southern League. The 25-year-old middle infielder has crushed AFL pitching in his first 16 games, totaling 22 hits, six runs, three doubles, two triples, two homers and 13 RBIs.
The under-the-radar prospect may not be that for long if he continues his torrid pace in Arizona.
Dodgers pitchers in the Fall League
Originally an undrafted free agent, Eric Eadington did extremely well for himself in 2012, jumping three levels in the Dodgers' farm system. The southpaw began the year playing for Class A Great Lakes, then moved up to Rancho Cucamonga before finishing in Chattanooga.
Overall, the 24-year-old boasted a 3.63 ERA in 55 relief appearances, while saving 26 games and striking out 77 batters. He has given up six runs in his first 7 1/3 innings in the AFL.
Making the transition from starter to reliever in 2012, Red Patterson turned in a very productive season in Chattanooga, posting a 3.07 ERA in 70 1/3 innings while striking out 71 batters. The 25-year-old lefty hasn't fared well in the AFL so far, surrendering five earned runs in just 6 2/3 innings.
Drafted out of high school back in 2007, Andres Santiago is an experienced right-handed starting pitcher who made significant strides this year. After delivering a 3.96 ERA in 16 appearances (14 starts) for Rancho Cucamonga, the 23-year-old was promoted to Chattanooga, where he actually turned in even better results.
In 26 innings in Double-A, Santiago held a 2.77 ERA. He has made four starts for Mesa in Arizona so far, giving up six earned runs on 12 hits in 15 innings.