Prior to the season, Eric Johnson of Future Redbirds ranked Alex Reyes, the flame-throwing 21-year-old right-handed starting pitcher, as the number one prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system. Due to time constraints, I never got around to publishing my own prospects list but Reyes topped mine as well. In small sample sizes, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk have performed like number one prospects at the big league level, but even with their solid performances thus far in 2015, it is nearly impossible to ignore the Reyes' ceiling, especially in a pitching-rich organization like the Cardinals.
If you have followed Reyes' path at all, you'll know that he strikes out a ton of batters. For perspective on Reyes' 2015 strikeout rate (no, it's not fair to compare A+/AA strikeout rates to MLB strikeout rates), the highest in the majors for starting pitchers right now belongs to Clayton Kershaw at 33.5%. Reyes' repertoire allows for ample strikeouts, particularly against inferior minor leaguers. For much of the 2015 season (and it is not over since he will be competing in the Arizona Fall League), Reyes utilized an electric fastball (maxing out at 100-plus), a not-safe-for-work curveball (see the embedded video below), and an above-average changeup (a pitch he views as a key component to his improved consistency).
Video of Alex Reyes sitting 96-100 and hitting 101 a few weeks back. Curveball may be unsuitable for some audiences https://t.co/WhGG4uZkdQ— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) July 8, 2015
Alex Reyes with easy velo, sitting 96-98 in the first. I can't describe the curveball without violating some kind of terms of service.— Jeff Moore (@jeffmooreBP) May 4, 2015
Well, former Future Redbirds contributor and current Springfield Cardinals beat writer for TheCardinalNation.com, Derek Shore, provided the following piece of information on Twitter that, in my opinion, flew under the radar a little bit:
Couple of 101s and 102s from Alex Reyes throu gh two perfect frames. More importantly his newly found two-seamer has has been sharp.— Derek Shore (@D_Shore23) September 4, 2015
Scouting reports have noted that Reyes' four-seamer can be extremely flat at times. At his current velocity (sitting 96+ MPH), Reyes is able to get away with a flat fastball in the minor leagues, but this will not always be the case once he graduates to the big leagues. Thus, the incorporation of a two-seamer makes a ton of sense. Plus, Reyes does not have to look far to see that increased two-seamer use can lead to sustained success as Carlos Martinez is throwing the pitch 25% of the time in 2015, and it has strapped hitters down to an isolated power of .056.
So...why is a two-seamer important?
Ideally, the two-seamer will become a pitch that leads to weak, early-in-the-count contact—something that Reyes needs if he wants to go deeper into ball games as he works his way up the organizational ladder. The Cardinals are undoubtedly being cautious with his usage this season, especially considering the shoulder troubles he experienced around the All-Star break, but he has yet to show he can consistently throw 6-7 innings per start. Also, early-in-the-count contact will likely help cut down on his walks because he was at 12.6% in Double-A, a rate that would dubiously put him at the very top of MLB starter rankings. Second, a two-seamer and changeup follow very similar flight paths from the hand to the mitt, so by developing a more complementary pitch, his changeup will also become more useful.
In short, the future is bright for Alex Reyes, and I cannot wait to see how he performs in the Arizona Fall League.