As I gathered input from MLB Pipeline's Bernie Pleskoff on St. Louis Cardinals prospects participating in the Arizona Fall League, I realized external opinions on these players certainly have their merits and carry weight. These individuals are indeed professionals and see the game from a broader perspective than the non-employed baseball folk.
Moreover, there is not one other individual who has seen every pitch released from all four of the Cardinals representatives on the Surprise Saguaros roster this fall besides the club’s pitching coach, Carlos Reyes. Reyes, 46, currently shepherds Kansas City Royals' pitchers at their Class-A Lexington affiliate as well as serves as the organization's rehab coordinator.
His rich playing background as a professional and major-leaguer includes eight seasons in the show with the Oakland A's, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays. After 14 professional seasons, Reyes first became a pitching coach in the New York Yankees organization in 2005.
In this exclusive interview, Reyes gives his impression of Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Dean Kiekhefer and Robby Rowland in his short, but sufficient time in the AFL to paint a picture of each of the pitcher's potential.
Derek Shore: Despite not working with these hurlers through a six-month season, please give me an impression of what you've seen from: Reyes, Weaver, Kiekhefer and Rowland.
Carlos Reyes on Alex Reyes: "Great kid, great stuff. Very shocking on the suspension - it totally shocked me. Overall, great makeup, very approachable to learn. To me, all of his pitches are plus: plus fastball, plus curveball, and plus changeup. He was just fun to watch.
On Weaver: "Weaver, same thing. Great kid, just to sum it all up all four of them are great kids. Had no issues they are just really fun to be around. They are all just a great group of guys in the clubhouse, outside, on/off the field and everything.
"Certainly, Weaver, he's got a really good arm. Great fastball, great breaking stuff and off-speed. I don't see it as much out there, but I see it a lot in the bullpen. He just threw his last outing and gave up two hits in his first start that was really kind of turnaround for some of these kids out here."
On Kiekhefer: "Love the kid. The advantage of being left-handed - throws the baseball with two different arm slots and is tough on lefties. We talked, and I said, 'If you're going to pitch in the big leagues, you have to get lefties out, so you'll have a long career,' I like his makeup. He competes, he pitches efficient, pitches to contact to gets outs, and he's got a lot of deception.
"He's tough to pick up, especially lefty on lefty. He's got a lot of weapons."
DS: Can Kiekhefer retire righties at the major-league level?
CS: "Oh yeah, he's got two slots, so with the righties he just goes up and with the lefties he goes down. I played with a guy, of course, this is one side or the other at the big-league level, and that was Billy Taylor.
"Taylor was also 6-foot-8 and right-handed, but the same kind of guy and pretty much what he does is what Kiekhefer does. Taylor drops down on righties and is on top of lefties. Stuff-wise, yes he can get big-league hitters out from the right side."
On Rowland: "Like the kid. A little different personality, but a great kid. Everybody loves him; he's good to have around the clubhouse. He's got an above-average fastball/above-average slider. His stuff plays out pretty good.
"The whole thing is that now we're going into November, and we're still playing baseball in November, so it's been a long year for them. I look at the regular season; all these guys are down for me to pitch in the big leagues."
DS: To speak more on Reyes, obviously he has the dynamic stuff to anchor a rotation. Before his suspension, do you think he could reach that ceiling of a top of the rotation starter at some point with improvements to his command?
CR: "Oh yeah, I did not see a command issue here. He never showed me that here. He showed me almost above-average at times, at least average to compete out there at the major-league level. He's still learning how to, 'Oh, I got these weapons. How do I mix them in?'
"His first start I saw I probably saw him sit 97-100, thru breaking balls, and he mixed in one or two changeups and I was like, 'Dude, what are you doing? You got a plus changeup.' Stuff-wise, I think his command will play out in the big-leagues. I think overall, he'll be fine."
DS: One last question. Weaver, has been a standout for the Cardinals this fall. He's also said to have a strong fastball/changeup combo. Can he develop his slider to be a reliable starter?
CR: "I think he can be a back-end starter. Swing him out of the pen and spot start, I think he could probably be very effective. I think it is learning how to use that and against a lineup. The question becomes the third time through a lineup in the big leagues. Does he have different angles or can he change slots? I can see him being a back-end starter in the big leagues."
DS: I appreciate your time, Carlos. Thank you!
CR: "Oh, no problem. I hope that helped, but probably my view at this level and with these kids they all have the ability. We talked, and it's the mental side of the game. I taught every one of these guys that this is the big league camp out.
"I spent a long time in the big leagues; I threw 86-to-88, but I was very mind strong, and that will keep you guys in the big leagues. Every one of these kids - it's unbelievable, they have great arms."
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals AFL Prospect Interview: Patrick Wisdom
Coming at TCN: More interviews with St. Louis Cardinals prospects playing in the AFL.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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