Alex Reyes (Memphis Redbirds)

At this point, the key questions seem to be how good can Alex Reyes become and how fast?

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 concludes at #1 with the organization’s consensus best player, apparently ready to become a full-time MLB starter. FREE report!

http://www.scout.com/player/174617-alex-reyes?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
1 RHS 08 29 94 2012 IFA

Selected 2016 stats

Tm W L ERA FIP G GS SV IP H ER HR BB SO AVG G/AO BABIP
Mem 2 3 4.96 3.72 14 14 0 65.1 63 38 6 32 93 0.252 0.90 0.365
                                 
StL 4 1 1.57 2.67 12 5 1 46.0 33 8 1 23 52 0.201 0.69 0.283

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (1): Alex Reyes checked in at #1 during the community vote for the fourth and almost certainly last time we will be voting for him.

Given his status as perhaps the best starting pitching prospect in all of baseball, much of the community discussion centered on his tremendous upside. Mudville said that with a 100 MPH fastball, a hammer curve, and a freaky changeup, Reyes has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the organization. Mysteray posted that Reyes is surprisingly good, as most prospects get over-hyped, while Reyes looked ready to iron out his control issues while pitching in St. Louis. Bccran said we could just skip the vote for #1 as the fine prospect out of Elizabeth High School in New Jersey had it in the bag. So he did. - Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (1): No surprise here that Reyes pulled off the two-peat, ranking once again as TCN's top overall prospect in the Cardinals organization, even after an eventful 2016 which concluded with him still keeping his rookie status intact at the major-league level. Reyes remains far and away the Cardinals’ best prospect with the potential to dethrone Carlos Martinez as the organization's highest impact arm signed out of Latin America in history.

Reyes, 22, went 2-3 with a 4.96 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 93 strikeouts and 32 walks in 65 1/3 innings in his first season with Triple-A Memphis after missing a month and a half due to a 50-game suspension for the use of marijuana. His 12.8 K/9 strikeout rate ranked tops among all Pacific Coast League pitchers who had pitched at least 60 innings in 2016, while his 4.4 BB/9 walk rate ranked 72nd out of the 75 pitchers in that same group before his call to the show on August 9.

“The one thing we’ve worked on is to refine the command of his (high-90s) fastball,"  Memphis pitching coach Bryan Eversgerd told the Memphis Daily News in late-July. "He’s got a really good changeup and the curveball is also a weapon for the speed differentiation. As a complementary pitch to his curveball, he has the four-seam fastball above the strike zone. He has the horsepower to do it and get some chases up there.”

Memphis' 2016 manager Mike Shildt looked beyond Reyes’ pure stuff.

“He is more conscientious than most guys, regardless of age,” Shildt told STLSportsPage.com. “He pays attention. He listens. He wants to do well. Because of that, he continues to hone his craft. There maybe have not been huge leaps, but you don’t get as many huge leaps at higher levels. It’s about refinement."

After showing enough pitch efficiency and refined command to warrant a cup of coffee, Reyes was good enough to stay there, compiling a 4-1 record, a 1.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 52 strikeouts and one save through 46 innings (12 games, five starts) in the majors.

"We had one [scouting] report dating back to 2013 (on Reyes)," Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price told the media following Reyes' MLB debut. "He had a huge number on him, meaning a high grade, and every single other report from every single scout in our system had this guy as a top-of-the-rotation-caliber talent."

Scouting-wise, Reyes, who stands at 6-foot-4, and a reported 230 pounds, has filled out considerably since he signed at 175 pounds, especially in his lower half with tree trunks for legs with a thickish, but athletic looking frame to hold up as a durable starter who can log 200 or more innings.

Mechanically, he throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, generating electric, plus arm speed. His mechanics are clean overall and he repeats his delivery when he stays under control and doesn't overthrow. When he does overthrow, the command profile slips and that causes some effort in his delivery. The Cardinals coaching staff believes for him to pitch deeper into games with a more efficient pitch count requires finding the right rhythm for his delivery, so that he can repeat it.

The high-octane right-hander, throws very, very, hard with double-plus velocity that makes him an elite prospect. Reyes averages 97 mph on his fastball, working comfortably in the 96-100 mph range with one 102 mph reading in the minor leagues. The heater isn't straight either, featuring explosive life with an ability to sustain the power deep into starts. Perhaps his biggest weakness with the pitch in the past has been his tendency to overthrow it, which can cause his command to waver at times.

Reyes owns one of the best power curveballs (78-81 mph) in the minors as well, a swing-and-miss hammer breaking pitch that grades as a 70 offering on the 20-80 scouting scale. It features true 12-6 break with depth, controlled well with the ability to throw it for strikes or bury it down in or below the strike zone to get outs. He can throw it at any point in the count regardless of the handedness of the batter. In the majors, a lot of his strikeouts came off the curve.

To round out his arsenal, Reyes' changeup (87-88 mph) projects to be a plus pitch, though with less consistency than the other two. The offspeed pitch doesn't have much movement but is effective due to the absurd velocity separation off his fastball and improved conviction in throwing it. He is also working on a cutter/slider that will allow him to dominate both sides of the plate and work through a lineup multiple times.

With two present plus pitches, one potential plus pitch, and at least average command as a starter, Reyes has the upside of an ace hurler at the top of the rotation and could be a Carlos Martinez with more strength, size, and broadness. If he can't develop enough command, there's a profile of a power armed reliever in the mold of Trevor Rosenthal at his best.

All in all, Reyes will get every opportunity to stick in the rotation, starting in 2017. He is a Rookie of the Year candidate with the potential to be a perennial Cy Young Award contender in a few years. Watch for him to be on an innings limit next year at around 175.

"Alex is phenomenal as a starter," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told the media at the Winter Meetings. "He should be a starting pitcher. We'll see how it plays out through spring training. Certain guys have slotted innings, and Alex is going to have those. He's earned it and deserves it.

"There was a lot of expectations for Alex Reyes the moment he showed up to St. Louis. We threw him in situations you'd normally not throw a kid into, too. He not only survived, but he excelled."

 

Brian Walton (1): As one might expect when assessing a system with a clear number one prospect, head and shoulders above the others, this is the first and only time this year that all three voters agree in our rankings.

Reyes is the Cardinals’ best prospect for the second year in a row.

He only remains here in the rankings by a thread, however. MLB’s rookie rules, which we also follow for prospects, draws the line between rookie and veteran at 50 innings pitched. Reyes logged 46 after making his St. Louis debut on August 9.

This winter, I have been asked on occasion whether Reyes could be put in the bullpen for 2017 and potentially even be given the closer’s duties. They were spurred on by comments made by the general manager and manager when Reyes was first called up that at least initially, a relief role would be best for him. Another factor is the sheer volume of more experienced starters in camp, joined by former closer Trevor Rosenthal also bidding for a rotation spot.

It reality, last August, it did not take long for injuries and ineffectiveness from others - coupled with his own strong performances in relief - to alter that supposed bullpen plan for Reyes. He made his first start just 18 days after his debut and was the starting pitcher in five of his final seven appearances. Three of them were quality starts as he logged an impressive 2.20 ERA in that demanding role to go with just one earned run in 17 1/3 frames of relief.

In another important yardstick, against the future World Champions from Chicago, Reyes posted a 2.19 ERA and .190 batting average against to go with 13 strikeouts and 10 walks in 12 1/3 innings.

The only potential long-term downside of Reyes’ 2016 introduction is that he now has 55 days of MLB service time. Without a couple of months back in the minors at some point, he will reach free agency a year sooner than otherwise (following the 2022 season, rather than in the fall of 2023). But there is nothing much that can be done about that, because Reyes proved he belongs in the majors. That time in 2016 should ease his 2017 transition into the regular starting five.

However, even with Reyes’ late-season success, nothing should be considered set in stone. In the context of his upcoming initial MLB spring training camp and his role on Opening Day 2017, it is certainly fair to remember that we have already seen several head scratching spring training rotation “competitions” in the not-too-distant past. Most recently, in 2014, one such starting battle was seemingly won by young Carlos Martinez, yet was scored by those making the decision a defeat.

Still, when all is considered, there seems no reasonable doubt that a healthy Alex Reyes is among St. Louis’ best five starters. I fully expect him to be in the rotation from the beginning.

No matter what, there are bound to be a few bumps along the way, though, so please remember this example.

In what looked to be first full-season with St. Louis - after his 75-inning debut the year before - Bob Gibson struggled to a 5.61 ERA. That poor showing was at least in part because he could not yet fully harness his offerings, walking a very unhealthy five batters per nine innings. (Most feel free passes are Reyes’ biggest current concern, as well, with his St. Louis rate at 4.5 per nine.)

During that 1960 season, the future Hall of Famer was in and out of the Cardinals rotation all year long, and even sent back to Triple-A for six starts. Gibson’s final eight September appearances for St. Louis were all out of the pen as many, including manager Solly Hemus, had questions about his staying power.

Am I comparing the 22-year-old Reyes to Gibson at 24?

Not yet, but I am comparing their situations to remind us that some patience may be required in 2017. Any short-term turbulence would not alter the bigger picture. As the scouting grade indicates below, I consider Reyes to have an elite ceiling with a strong chance of achieving it. That is why he remains our number one Cardinals prospect.

TCN Scouting Grade: 8, Risk: Low (click here to review scales)

 

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes nine in-depth, follow-up articles, just ahead. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation, so join today and don’t miss out!

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