I am fortunate enough to live less than a half hour from the Springfield Cardinals, the Double-A Texas League affiliate of — you guessed it — the St. Louis Cardinals. Normally, there are one or two guys to watch for, but lately, this system hasn’t been as exciting as years past, as many of the top names are with Triple-A Memphis. However, the Springfield Cardinals’ game on Saturday, May 19 just might go down as my favorite minor league game ever. Alex Reyes, the Cardinals’ rehabbing future stud, was in town, and for a mere $30, I got a front row diamond level seat to personally scout the young righty. And he put on a show.
Scouting Alex Reyes
There were many takeaways from his phenomenal start in which he went 7 2/3 innings, threw 87 pitches, allowed just one hit, no runs, and struck out 13 – tied for the Springfield Cardinals’ team record.
One of the most obvious things to say is that he had good stuff, but I didn’t have to be there to tell you that. The box score alone tells enough of that story.
Another is that Alex Reyes is clearly being treated with kid gloves. He came out of the game having thrown just 87 pitches. And this was after throwing 80 in his previous start.
Yet another very important takeaway I had from this game was that he looked good. I don’t just mean the stuff looked good; I mean he himself looked good. A trip to his Fangraphs page shows his height and weight at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds.
Anyone who saw him pitch in his first taste of the majors has already laughed at those figures because, to put it lightly, Alex Reyes is a big boy. At one point, there was a bit of meat packed onto his big frame, but in Saturday’s start, he was a lot more lean and solid. It’s clear that his time with the big league team and, more importantly, the big league conditioning squad, taught him some things that can help him in the long run. Or he just eats better and does more yoga. I can only speculate.
Reyes featured all of his three-pitch arsenal that night, as he utilized a fastball that went anywhere from 93-98 mph, a curveball that sat around 78, and his changeup at 88 that was a noticeably solid pitch on this night.
The Kansas City Royals’ Double-A affiliate NW Arkansas Travelers squad, which is largely devoid of talent, had no chance against a pitcher like this. In fact, my friend pointed out that he didn’t remember seeing any hitter even attempt a swing at one of the curves; they mostly just tried to get out of the way as it went for a called strike. His fastball location was excellent, and the instances where he gave up hard contact came on mistake heaters that were few and far between. But once opposing hitters started to take better swings on the fastball, a few curves and changeups would appear, and then Reyes would be back in the dugout.
If there was one negative thing I could say about Reyes, it’s that his curve was up in the zone way too much. The minor league journeymen and “maybe” prospects that he was facing couldn’t do anything with it. However, against a Major League team, a few of his curves would have been hit much harder. But for now, 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery, I’m sure Alex Reyes and the Cardinals are thrilled with his progress.
Command is usually the last thing to come back for Tommy John surgery recipients, and Reyes was never exactly an 80-grade command pitcher. However, there was enough here to give Cardinals fans a healthy dose of cautious optimism. There’s room for improvement, obviously, but this performance gave me hope for some actual value from Alex Reyes this season.
I say that because, during draft season, Reyes was still being scooped up by a healthy number of owners in redraft leagues. This was way back when no one knew what to expect, and pundits everywhere were talking everything from spending the year in the minors to making half a season’s worth of starts to working out of the big league bullpen.
I think putting him in the ‘pen is a mistake. I thought that then and I stand by it, but I thought drafting him was a mistake as well. There was too much risk, and drafting hurt pitchers is generally not a good strategy. But now that we’ve seen teams like the Angels utilize a six-man rotation, I think something similar for the Cardinals isn’t a bad idea. Let Carlos Martinez take his turn every five days once he’s healthy, but no other starter on that staff warrants that kind of consideration. Even if that concept doesn’t come to fruition, I do think Reyes puts up some nice stats this year for fantasy owners.
Now, I’m not saying go and scoop him up off of waivers or trade your steady pitchers for him, because anything can happen between now and then. But in 10 (give or take) days Alex Reyes is going to be back on the Major League squad, and he’s got enough stuff right now to produce results. If you drafted him and he’s still sitting on your bench, keep him there and see what you can get out of him. I don’t advocate starting him in his first one or two starts, but if the performance is there, throw him out there and let him do his thing.
Quick Notes from the Weekend
Victor Roache is a 26-year-old minor leaguer in his fourth year with a different team (Brewers, Dodgers, Brewers again, and now Cardinals), but he’s shown some crazy power and put together a much better line. I saw a home run both nights, and his long ball in Reyes’ start ended up being the only run of the game. He’s organizational depth, but if he can show that his strikeout gains are real, there’s a chance he makes a minor splash in the majors for some team.
Reyes’ only real shaky inning came with a bit of precipitation. He issued two walks to start the inning but got out of it on a nice play at the plate. It was clear he was having issues gripping the ball, so if you look only at the box scores, you won’t see the whole picture.
Friday’s game was uneventful for the most part, but Cardinals starter Jake Woodford put together seven strong innings despite the results. He’s not highly regarded, but he looked good. If he could just make some gains on his fastball, be it velocity, movement, or true command, he could have some value. He may never make it, but I’m rooting for him. He was fun to watch.