The best Spring Training a baseball team could possible have is one without injuries. The Cardinals might not have made it a single day. There were early reports that Alex Reyes would not be throwing today and would be getting an MRI, per Derrick Goold. Those reports were alarming, but not necessarily indicative of something awful.
Reyes, who was recently named the number one prospect in Major League Baseball by Baseball Prospectus and has been a consensus top-10 prospect for more than a year, was expected to enter the season in the Cardinals rotation, if not at the very beginning, then shortly thereafter.
Craig Mish then reported the news could be very bad.
I am told : Potentially season ending injury for Alex Reyes. Tough tough blown for Cardinals.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) February 14, 2017
Jeff Passan followed up with more potentially bad news.
There is significant concern inside the Cardinals' organization that Alex Reyes, their star pitching prospect, needs Tommy John surgery.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 14, 2017
Passan followed up with some tweets indicating surgery wasn’t definite, but he didn’t leave too much hope for optimism. Last season, Reyes struck out 52 batters in 46 innings while giving up 23 free passes. His ERA was an incredible 1.57 and it was supported by a very good 2.67 FIP. Reyes was going to be on some sort of innings limit this season, but something close to 150 innings seemed reasonable for the 22-year-old.
We don’t yet know for sure when the official news will come out on Reyes, but this is a big loss for the Cardinals rotation as Reyes’ talent makes him a potential star. Just a few weeks ago, when Carlos Martinez inked his five-year contract extension, visions of Martinez and Reyes topping the Cardinals rotation for the next six years seemed possible.
Even if Reyes does hear the worst and he undergoes Tommy John surgery, his career is far from over. Standard recovery might keep him out until the middle of next season, and the Cardinals will have trouble replacing him over the next year and a half.
Michael Wacha would seem to be the most likely pitcher to secure himself a rotation spot if he can prove healthy in Spring Training. The Cardinals enter spring with Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, and Lance Lynn assured of spots. Wacha might have found himself the odd man out and in the bullpen if Reyes entered the season healthy and ready to go.
Wacha is an excellent guy to have as the fifth man in the rotation but the Cardinals are now short on major-league ready depth in the rotation. Luke Weaver is likely in the sixth man spot down in Memphis, but after Weaver there is very little in terms of players who are ready to contribute to an MLB rotation. Tyler Lyons is hurt entering the year. Marco Gonzales hasn’t been healthy, and Mike Mayers likely still isn’t ready with the Cardinals other best pitching prospects still more than a year away. Maybe this is the unreal opportunity Trevor Rosenthal needs to give him a shot.
We don’t yet have final word on Reyes’ MRI, but the initial news is not good at all for Reyes or the Cardinals. The team is already in a tough fight for a playoff spot, and losing a potential contributor is tough. Reyes seemed ready to take over a spot in the rotation, and this could be a significant step back.