TCN 2016 Cardinals Prospect #1: Alex Reyes

There is no suspense as to the identity of St. Louis’ number one prospect – one of the best in MiLB. A suspension will delay his 2016 progress, however.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

Hometown: Elizabeth, New Jersey

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
2 RHS 08,29,94 6-3 185 R R 2012 FA

Selected 2015 stats

Spr 3 2 3.12 2.32 8 8 0 34.2 21 12 1 18 52 0.174 1.08 0.282
PB 2 5 2.26 1.75 13 13 0 63.2 49 16 0 31 96 0.216 1.18 0.371
GCL 0 0 0.00 2.31 1 1 0 3.0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0.00 0
total 5 7 2.49   22 22 0 101.1 70 28 1 49 151 0.197 1.06  
AFL 0 1 3.60 3.72 4 4 0 15 14 6 0 10 14 0.250 1.33 0.333

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (1): Of course, Alex Reyes checked in at #1 during the community vote. Reyes is much like previous multi-time top prospect Shelby Miller in that he is far above the rest of the prospects at this stage in the game. During the vote, I wrote that Reyes is likely very close to being the #1 pitching prospect in all of baseball this year.

Back in 2014, there were some more dissenting views about Reyes. RedBirdFive wrote that Reyes was too young and at too low of a level to get support over the likes of Marco Gonzales, Stephen Piscotty, and Greg Garcia. Axcion echoed those thoughts, posting that he thought Reyes was a huge gamble to be getting support at that stage in the voting.

Fast forward one year and Scadder21 started off the chatter in voting for our top prospect by noting that Reyes has a huge advantage over everyone else due to his arm strength and stamina. UncleDenny reiterated that he heard that nearly all the talk during the trade deadline centered on other teams wanting Reyes in return. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (1): Not much was needed from Reyes to cement himself in 2015. He was already the Cardinals unequivocal top prospect and even after his second positive drug test that will cost him virtually a month and a half next year – he is far and away the Cardinals best prospect. Reyes has the potential to dethrone Carlos Martinez as the organization's most impactful arm signed out of Latin America.

Reyes, 21, is New Jersey-born, but moved to the Dominican for his senior season of high school to focus on baseball. That enabled him to sign as an international free agent with negotiating leverage with any professional organization. In December 2012, the Cardinals signed him for a bonus of $950,000. As far as raw ability and tools go, the impeccable right-hander has sped through the system faster than a jet -- reaching and finishing strong at Double-A Springfield in 2015.

In his third year with a co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year award to show for it, Reyes racked up an organization-best 151 punchouts, and also posted a career-best 2.49 ERA in 22 starts (split between High-A Palm Beach and Springfield). Due to missing four weeks during the season, Reyes was among Cardinals representatives in the Arizona Fall League, but his time there was cut short because of the suspension.

Every time Reyes stepped on the bump this past season, he was "dominant" in spite of wavering command issues that hinder his endurance later on in outings. He can hold an "easy" upper 90s velocity and hit the 100+ mph threshold with regularity thanks to clean mechanics he has continued to refine. To note, he was doing more of the same over the course of the fall league season and one source told me a manager said Reyes was “constantly” at or above 100 mph during the regular season.

Typically, Reyes repeats his delivery well when he stays under control and in a direct line towards home plate. The latter was a particular focal point when working with Springfield pitching coach Jason Simontacchi. He has a tendency to lose his release point and overthrows. That precludes him from throwing consistent strikes resulting in at times long, labored innings and ineffectiveness. The industry doesn't see red flags regarding his delivery and mechanics, but they aren't perfect as he throws somewhat across his body.

Already with an electric arm, Reyes has added a Carlos Martinez-influenced sinker to his power arsenal. This is a ground-ball pitch he will need low in the zone to offer hitters a contrast to a riding four-seamer. Reyes backs those pitches up with a true 12-6 hammer - a pitch so good he can use it to get ahead in counts. He also has a harder changeup that gets firm, but one scout told me could be a well above-average pitch as he learns to harness his overall stuff. His stuff is so good that he can struggle to command it even.

Following one of his starts, a professional scout who covers the Texas League told me the following.

"He's got the potential of three well above average pitches but still ways to go (with consistency and commanding the ball)," said the pro scout. "His ability to harness stuff will determine how good he is in the end and whether he's a top of the rotation starter or end of the game reliever. Best arm and stuff I've seen in minors this year along with (Noah) Syndergaard."

Another pro scout weighs with a different perspective on Reyes.

"He's clearly a top-of-the-rotation guy, or a top-notch closer if he can't develop more of an off-speed pitch," the pro scout said.

Reyes is a proverbial strikeout pitcher and often avoids the barrel of the bat. With his newly-added sinker, I see the percentage of groundballs increasing, and the number of fly balls will come and go, but he can give up a lot of weak contact. As a former infielder in high school, Reyes is a superb athlete and can field his position exceptionally well even for a relatively taller framed pitcher who improved his mobility last off-season by shedding 15-20 pounds.

Had the big-league Cardinals been presented with a bullpen need before season's end last year, Reyes could have jumped straight from Double-A and overpowered highest level hitters with his one-two punch combo (fastball/curveball). Baseball America has compared him to New York Yankees relief ace Dellin Betances. A power armed starting pitcher with front-line potential is a golden commodity in today's game.

Once his suspension is up in 2016, I expect Reyes to make a return to Springfield to build on his late-season promotion there with a need to pitch past the fifth and sixth innings consistently. From there, he should see Triple-A Memphis and eventually make his major-league debut as a St. Louis Cardinal with the ingredients to be an ace starter.

Brian Walton (1): In early October, when Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque spoke with me about Reyes pitching in the Arizona Fall League, everything seemed in order. A plan was in place for the top prospect to make up for time lost due to an injury that had caused him to miss both the Florida State League All-Star Game and the MLB All-Star Futures Game.

“Reyes was out a brief period of time in early July when we were talking about the Futures Game,” LaRocque said. “Innings wise, if you look at where he was - in the 100 inning threshold roughly – the Fall League supplements his work here during the season just right. We hope for good health and all of the things that go along with it this fall. Once he comes out of it at the end of the year, he would have been right on track where he should be.”

Unfortunately, the 21-year-old did not finish 2015 on track. On the eve of Reyes’ scheduled start on national television in the AFL Fall Stars Game, his speeding locomotive toward St. Louis jumped the rails when a 50-game suspension for a second positive test for marijuana use was announced.

It is unfortunate, but the development of Reyes’ exceptional talent has to take a detour due his poor judgement with the subject of current focus on his suspension instead of his pitching progress. (Note: The penalty for a third positive test would be a 100-game suspension.)

Given his solid Double-A stint and AFL seasoning, 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, that all is now up in the air. I suspect Reyes’ development time table may be negatively impacted by as much as six months due to 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.

Suspended big leaguers are eligible to participate in spring camp despite being on the Major League Restricted List. The same opportunity apparently 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 a judgment call on the part of the Cardinals.

However, since Reyes is prohibited from appearing in any game for which admission is charged, it seems more likely that minor league camp will be his spring destination. What is crystal clear is that he will not break camp on any active team roster.

The final 10 games of the AFL slate after Reyes’ suspension count against his total, making his expected return to regular season action 40 games into the Springfield schedule, in mid- to late-May. During that time out, I expect Reyes will participate in extended spring training in Jupiter, Florida, competing, but having to do so against much less experienced hitters.

Whether he rejoins Springfield or moves up to Triple-A Memphis when coming off suspension in May will remain to be seen. My guess is the former. It would also not be surprising for Reyes first to ramp up by making a few starts at Palm Beach when initially activated. How much time it will take for him to return to his 2015 level and proceed beyond that is anyone’s guess.

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. It is all up to him.

Note: Reyes spoke with me from the AFL the day before his suspension was announced. The Cardinal Nation members can listen to the entire interview via the link below.

Our 2016 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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