Potential Impacts of Alex Reyes’ Suspension

Looking at the impact of the suspension of St. Louis Cardinals top pitching prospect Alex Reyes today and in 2016.

The facts

On Monday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced that St. Louis Cardinals minor league pitcher Alex Reyes has been suspended 50 games for his second positive test for a drug of abuse. This is in violation of MLB’s Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Reyes released a signed, typewritten statement through MLB.

“Earlier this week, I tested positive for marijuana during a routine drug test,” his statement said. “I take full responsibility for my actions and apologize for disappointing my family, fans, teammates and the St. Louis Cardinals organization. I acknowledge my inappropriate behavior and will accept the consequences. Baseball is my passion and I will do everything in my power to put this behind me and move forward.”

The Cardinals organization has not replied to inquiries about the suspension.

Reyes is St. Louis’ number one prospect and among the top tier in all of minor league baseball. The hard-throwing right-hander finished the 2015 regular season at Double-A Springfield before joining the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League last month.

He will be placed on the Restricted List at Springfield.

The background

As reported by The Cardinal Nation on Friday, Reyes, 21, was removed from the Arizona Fall League on the eve of his starting berth in the AFL Fall Stars Game, a nationally televised contest on Saturday night.

The timing of the action to pull an apparently healthy Reyes from the AFL just before this spotlight event made it obvious that the cause was extraordinary.

However, the reason was not speculated about here because I did not know whether the violation was his first, which is kept confidential, or second, which leads to the mandatory 50-game suspension. As we learned Monday, it was the latter. (Had it been the former, Reyes’ privacy would have been respected here.)

After the first positive test, the Program indicates that the player is required to participate in a defined treatment program. That includes a professional evaluation and specific treatment as deemed appropriate. As a result, it is difficult to defend Reyes for this second offense.

Whether or not one agrees with the rules as defined today does not make them any less binding. Reyes was caught again and now has to serve his time. (Note: The penalty for a third positive test is a 100-game suspension.)

Looking forward

Already named The Cardinal Nation Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2015, Reyes seems to have been the leading candidate for the yet-to-be announced Cardinals organization’s Pitcher of the Year award, as well. However, that may be out the window now.

Given his solid Double-A debut and AFL success, making Triple-A Memphis out of 2016 spring training could have been a realistic March goal for Reyes. A St. Louis debut at some point during the upcoming season, whether as a reliever or starter, did not seem out of the question at all.

However, his development time table may also be negatively impacted by this incident.

Though not yet required to be put on the 40-man roster, Reyes was almost certain to receive a non-roster invitation to Cardinals major league spring training camp in February - prior to the suspension.

Cardinals catcher Cody Stanley, suspended in September, will be eligible to participate in spring camp despite being on the Major League Restricted List. The same opportunity exists for minor leaguers on the Restricted List for drug-related suspensions. As a result, the decision on whether Reyes joins MLB camp or minor league spring camp may come down to another judgment call on the part of the Cardinals.

The 10 games remaining on the AFL slate count against Reyes’ suspension, making his expected return to regular season action 40 games into the schedule, around mid-May. During that time out, I would expect Reyes to participate in extended spring training in Jupiter, Florida, competing, but doing so against much less experienced players.

Whether he rejoins Springfield initially or moves up to Triple-A Memphis when activated in May will remain to be seen. My guess is the former.

Now that Reyes’ mistakes are public and he has apologized for them, all eyes will be on him going forward. Despite this bump in the road, he has plenty of time to recover and still realize his considerable potential.

Other Cardinals suspensions

Check The Cardinal Nation blog for a full list of 32 drug suspended Cardinals major and minor leaguers back to the start of the Program in 2005.

”A History of Cardinals Substance Suspensions”

Last Wednesday, right in between what would be his final AFL start and his suspension, Reyes spoke with me about his 2015 season, how he was working on his offerings in Arizona and his outlook for 2016. TCN members should look for that exclusive interview this week.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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