Tempering Early Expectations for Alex Reyes

Mix excitement with caution when looking ahead to the arrival of Cardinals pitching prospect Alex Reyes.

Have you heard the whispers? They are soft at the moment, but growing louder. It is the very beginning of a rumor: “Maybe - just maybe - Alex Reyes will be ready to pitch in St. Louis in 2016.”

Oh man, how awesome would that be? He throws 100 miles per hour, has the potential for a wicked curveball, and a changeup that is supposed to be coming along nicely. And what is going to stop him? So far, it hasn’t been the batters. At both Palm Beach and Springfield, Reyes dominated, striking out 13.5 batters per nine innings ore more at both levels. Every offense that encountered the Cardinals’ top prospect in 2015 was basically mowed down. So when does he start?

It is hard not to get excited about potentially slotting the 21-year-old into the rotation right out of Spring Training, but we can accept that he needs some seasoning at Memphis. What about a bullpen boost for the second half, though? Or to step in in case of injury? Surely we will see him then, right?

Maybe so. I certainly hope that Reyes continues his development and winds up in the majors sometime in 2016, and a fair number of people - including some in the Cardinals own front office - seem to think that he will make it. But what can we expect when he does?

Frustration, and a lot of it. Reyes has an incredible arm, and I don’t think that Major League hitters will be his biggest obstacle. Oh, sure, he will hang a few curveballs, or think he can sneak his fastball by someone just because he can throw a hundred miles per hour, but for the most part, I expect him to give up few hits and strike out a lot, because that’s what he’s done everywhere so far.

There is another consistent aspect to his game, however, and that is walking batters. At every level, Reyes has struggled with his control and given up more runs than it seems like he should because of it. When he gets to St. Louis, he is likely to suffer from the same problem. As I said, I don’t think the Major League hitters will be his primary hurdle, but I do think that they will make him pay for his mistakes more, and that is going to make it very frustrating to watch Alex Reyes pitch.

The flashes of dominance that we will get to see when Reyes first dons the Birds on the Bat will show off his incredible amount of promise, but if you expect the 21-year-old to dominate Major League hitters right out the gate, be ready for disappointment.

So as we all grow more and more excited for the Cardinals’ next big pitching phenomenon, I encourage all of you to prepare to be both blown away and disappointed in the beginning. Reyes is the real deal, but that doesn’t mean he is done growing just yet.

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