Coming off a 50-game suspension, St Louis Cardinals prospect Alex Reyes is on the verge of forcing the Cardinals hand despite a rotation full of veterans.
Reyes, who was suspended 50 games for his second positive test for marijuana, has looked phenomenal in the minors upon his return.
Reyes dominated the New Orleans Zephyrs in his start Wednesday night. He struck out 11 batters across 6 innings while only walking 2. He did give up a 2-run HR in the first inning, but, that should not take away from his eye popping outing.
In his 3 starts since returning he has struck out an impressive 26 batters in 15 innings while posting a 1.80 ERA. This may be a small sample size at AAA, but, it showcases that his stuff is Major League ready.
2016 is not the first time Reyes’ numbers jumped off the page. Reyes looked like a possible candidate for the Cardinals opening day rotation in 2016 after striking out 151 batters in only 101.1 innings in 2015 across three minor league levels.
He was set to cap his season off with a run in the Arizona Fall League, where he was named the starting pitcher for AFL’s Fall Stars game before the news of his suspension came down.
It was a tough blow for Reyes and the Cardinals and, along with John Lackey’s departure, it may have led to the Cardinals giving inning-eater Mike Leake a 5-year 80 million dollar contract in the offseason.
The suspension may end up being a blessing in disguise though. It allowed the Cardinals to limit his innings in the season through the first two months of the seasons. Coming off a season in which he logged 116.1 innings (including the AFL innings), Reyes was a virtual lock to have his innings capped in 2016.
With the suspension he started his first regular season game of the season on May 22, almost two months after he would have started the season otherwise. This could allow Reyes to pitch deep into October for the Cardinals without topping 160 or so innings.
Having Reyes throughout September and October could be huge for the perennial pennant contending Cardinals, whether it be as a starter or a reliever.
Reyes possesses a fastball that regularly sits in the mid-90s and a knee-buckling power curveball. His changeup is still a work in progress, as it is for most 21-year-olds, but his stuff looks too good for Minor League hitters and Reyes looks ready for the show.
With the Cardinals rotation full with proven big-league commodities, the path for Reyes may in fact be the bullpen. This would allow him to use his changeup sparely and only use his plus fastball and curveball.
Reyes may boast the best pure stuff of any Cardinals starte. Although he struggles with his command at times, he has walked 4.7 batters per 9 innings across his career, there is no denying that he has tantalizing stuff that should play in a big league rotation.
If one of the Cardinals starting five where to go down, or if Michael Wacha continues to struggle, Reyes would appear to be first in line to be the replacement. OK, maybe it could be Tyler Lyons, but, I do not want to live in a world where Lyons keeps a rotation spot away from a talent like Reyes.
Whether it be in the rotation or out of the bullpen, Reyes looks poised to contribute for the Cardinals in 2016.