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MLB Rookie Report: Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals promoted right-handed pitching prospect Alex Reyes to the major league roster this week. He's in the bullpen initially and threw a scoreless inning of relief in his MLB debut against the Cincinnati Reds on August 9th.

Reyes was signed by the Cardinals in 2011 for $950,000. He was successful at the lower levels then took a large step forward in 2015, posting a 2.49 ERA in 101 innings at three levels with a 151/49 K/BB and just 70 hits allowed.

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-3 WT: 220 DOB: August 29, 1994

2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade B+

We’ll start with the negatives first. Alex Reyes needs better control. His walk rate is higher than ideal. Some observers worry that his delivery stresses his shoulder. Indeed, he missed time early last summer with shoulder tendinitis. The Cardinals shut him down at the first sign of trouble and he came back after a couple of weeks off with no apparent ill effects; still, shoulder stuff is always a concern. He was also suspended in November after testing positive for marijuana use and will open ’16 on the restricted list. Despite the negatives, he is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, working at 96-98 MPH (with movement) and hitting 100 without much trouble. He has a double-plus curveball and his change-up is solid big-league average with a chance to get even better. The quality of his stuff is backed up by excellent dominance ratios with a ridiculous strikeout rate in particular. Small improvements in his command will make him a number two starter at the least and possibly a number one, provided that he stays healthy. My thinking is that the command will improve enough for him to reach his ceiling, assuming he stays on the mound long enough to do it. He’s a terrific prospect but just keep in mind the risk that even the best young pitchers run. Grade A.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

After serving out his suspension Reyes opened 2016 with Triple-A Memphis, making 14 starts with a 4.96 ERA in 65 innings with a 93/32 K/BB. As with 2015, his strikeout rate is crazy good and he doesn't do it with junk stuff. He's been clocked as high as 101 this year.  On the other hand, reports from the Pacific Coast League indicate continued trouble managing command of his secondary pitches, especially the breaking ball. That said, his 4.96 ERA this year is misleading; his FIP is much better at 3.75.

Using Reyes in the bullpen makes sense to me in a short-term Carlos Martinez way: break Reyes in with relief stints, then ease him into a starting role in a year or two, once he gets his feet wet and his confidence established. It worked for Martinez and Reyes could end up being very similar.