Florida State League Won’t Miss Alex Reyes

Explaining how dominating St. Louis Cardinals’ top pitching prospect Alex Reyes has been this season.

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As you may have heard, Alex Reyes has been promoted to the Springfield Cardinals and will no longer grace the mounds of the Florida State League with his presence. Although I could speculate about his future, it seems to me that this is as good a time as any to look at what the flame-throwing righty has already accomplished.

The thing that really stands out when watching Reyes pitch is his ability to induce swinging strikes, and a side effect of those strikes are his strikeouts. His 13.57 K/9 is the third best mark from a Florida State League pitcher with at least 60 innings pitched in the past ten years. The 20-year-old ranks ahead of pitchers like Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Chris Archer, and Justin Verlander. The only two strikeout rates better than his in the past ten years were Tim Collins’ 13.8 K/9 with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2009 and Anthony Slama’s 13.9 for the Fort Myers Miracle in 2008.

Take a look outside of the Florida State League, and Reyes’ accomplishment shines even more. Among professional pitchers with at least 60 innings in 2015, Reyes’ 13.57 K/9 is the best mark. There is no pitcher in the majors or at any minor league level with a better strikeout rate. If you drop the required innings limit to 50, Dellin Betances becomes the only pitcher with a better strikeout rate, having posted a 14.55 K/9 so far this season.

That is pretty heady company, and an impressive statistic any way you slice it. But let’s look at his strikeout rate a bit differently. While K/9 measures the raw number of strikeouts a pitcher accumulates in any given inning, K% examines what percentage of the batters a pitcher faces he strikes out. To illustrate this, if a pitcher throws a perfect inning with one strikeout, he would have a K/9 of nine and a K% of 33.3%.

Looking at this metric, we learn that Reyes has struck out 33.6% of the batters he has faced this season. By comparison, among Major League pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched, Clayton Kershaw leads the league by striking out 33.7% of his batters. The fact of the matter is that facing Alex Reyes isn’t fun, and if a batter is unlucky enough to see him three times in a game, said batter will almost surely be set down on strikes at least once.

The strikeouts are kind of easy pickings, though, and that is not all that Reyes has going for him. The young right-hander actually had a bit of bad luck while pitching for Palm Beach, with a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .371, but he has still managed to limit the number of hits given up. His H/9 of 6.9 was tied for fourth in the league, despite the fact that his BABIP ranked second to last among all Florida State League pitchers with at least 60 innings. In short, Reyes has been among the best pitchers in the league at limiting hits even though he’s had some of the worst luck in having balls in play land for hits.

But why stop there when we don’t have to? Of the 49 hits that Reyes allowed (third fewest in the Florida State League), zero left the ballpark. In 63 2/3 innings, Reyes did not allow a home run. The only two other pitchers who have yet to allow a home run this year are his teammate Rob Kaminsky and Reds prospect Barrett Astin. It’s worth noting that the Florida State League is notoriously stingy with its home runs, but even when compared to the low league average HR/9 of 0.4, Reyes’ accomplishment stands out.

It’s true that Reyes has some command issues, as his 4.38 BB/9 demonstrates, but in spite of this seemingly large flaw, Reyes found greatness. Reyes found dominance. Reyes managed to absolutely shut down an entire league. Perhaps at Springfield, his flaws will catch up to him and he will have to make an adjustment, but I have no doubt that the Florida State League’s hitters are happy to know that they will not have to see Reyes’ fastball again anytime soon.

Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.

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