Anthony Reyes - Ready For Prime Time?

The list of St. Louis Pitching prospects reaches from here to the moon, but this one may be ready for prime time.

After taking the winter off, Cardinals right handed pitching prospect Anthony Reyes may be ready for "Prime Time" this year.

Drafted in the 15th round of the 2003 draft from Southern California, Reyes as a college freshman had once been considered as high as a prospect as St. Louis Cardinals favorite son Rick Ankiel and his former teammate at Southern Cal,Mark Prior of the Chicago Cubs.

Reyes missed the first six weeks early in the season last year because of shoulder inflammation. Anthony has had arm problems with nagging elbow injuries since his sophomore year in college.

The big question mark here is, will this pitcher able to handle the workload of a starter. To date it doesn't appear so, but the Cardinals seem to be taking the right approach in his development.

This winter the Cardinals didn't send Reyes anywhere to pitch, nor would I suggest they ever consider sending him to winter ball. The kid has never pitched more than 108 pitches in a single game or even close to a 100 innings in a season. I anticipate it will take two more years (minimum) of careful development to make him ready to be a front line starter. Certainly the program they had him on this winter was a step in the right direction.

My position and opinion has always been that a pitcher should never add more than 50 additional innings to his season from one year to the next, to allow for proper arm development. While of course this is not written in stone anywhere, a lot of pitchers injuries can be traced back to a significant increase in workload.

Instead of sending him out to pitch they put him on a workout program in an effort to make sure he is strong enough to pitch every fifth day this season, I'm anticipating for the Memphis Redbirds at AAA.

There is some reason to hope for this highly regarded prospect for a change. Last year after missing the first six weeks of the season, Reyes came back and pitched effectively at Tennessee (AA). In 12 starts Reyes showed he had recaptured the form he displayed in his freshman year at Southern Cal, that showed so much promise. It was then, scouts thought Reyes would become a first round draft choice. At Tennessee, he held batters to a .225 batting average going 6-2 with a 3.03 ERA.

The Cardinals couldn't have imagined a season like this from Reyes in 2004. He struck out 102 in 74-plus innings. He also struck out eight consecutive batters in one game en route to a Southern League-record 15 strikeouts. One thing to note though is, he does has the advantage of being a little older than most of his lower-level opponents he faced in 2004.

The Cardinals will most likely move Reyes to Memphis (AAA) this season and if he can stay healthy for an entire season, we could see him in the majors by 2006.

Baseball America, recently ranked Reyes as the Cardinals number one pitching prospect, even ahead of Adam Wainwright and former top prospect Blake Hawksworth and it's very likely that he will make it to "The Show" before these other highly touted prospects.

Reyes brings to the game a 90-95 mph fastball with an improving breaking ball and changeup. Coaches rave he has a great work ethic. So good in fact that there are some who believe if Matt Morris and Rick Ankiel falter in St. Louis, that Reyes could find himself in "Prime Time" by the All Star Break.

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