Giovanny Gallegos has been a key contributor in the Cardinals bullpen since he arrived in St. Louis as part of the Luke Voit trade. However, now that he is injured, there is an open late inning role in the Cardinals bullpen. Additionally, with the Cardinals dealing with a COVID outbreak earlier in the season, plenty of young pitchers have been given their chance to play in the big leagues. This has allowed the Cardinals to try out a relatively large group of relievers and see how well they can handle the MLB, albeit in a small sample size. Additionally, other higher profile players have also impressed, giving the Cardinals a large pool from which to choose a temporary replacement for Gallegos.
The first and most promising candidate is Alex Reyes. The 26-year-old has thrown just seven innings in the last three seasons as he has struggled with injuries. However, the top prospect has returned to form so far this season as he has posted a K/9 of 11.47 while averaging 97.3 mph on his fastball as well as a 21% above average drop on his curveball (60.7 inches, including gravity). Additionally, Reyes has allowed a .264 wOBA and a .266 xwOBA despite a high walk rate of 6.08 batters per nine innings.
Even though Reyes can struggle with control, which is to be expected considering how little he has pitched in recent years, he has been very effective limiting contact, and especially limiting hard contact. His 3.3% barrel rate is in the 86th percentile in the league and his hard hit rate of 30.0% is in the 75th percentile. This has allowed him to work around his high walk rate and prevent runs from scoring. Additionally, he has elite spin rates on his fastball (2561 rpm), curveball (2909 rpm), slider (2829 rpm) that helps make each of his pitches more difficult to hit.
John Gant is also another candidate to take over Gallegos’ late inning role. The right hander has impressed this season by allowing just a .201 wOBA and .260 xwOBA while striking out 11.57 batters per nine innings. He also has some issues with free passes (4.50 BB/9), but like Reyes, he has a strong ability to limit barrels and his 2.12 FIP demonstrates his dominance over opposing hitters this year. Gant has been a solid pitcher for the Cardinals in each of the last two seasons, but he has taken a leap forward this year and may be rewarded with more high leverage and late inning appearances.
These should be the two primary contenders for Gallegos’ role, and of the two I would prefer to see Alex Reyes fill the role as his electric arsenal and former prospect pedigree make him an exciting candidate to fill a key role for the team, especially in a short season. However, a combination of the two pitchers could provide the ideal solution as it would allow the Cardinals to use different approaches based on the situation without relying too heavily on one player.
Another player that may see an increased role is Nabil Crismatt, who was recalled when Gallegos went to the inured list. Crismatt has mixed his changeup, four seamer, sinker, and curveball without relying too heavily on one pitch. This diversity in his arsenal makes him an intriguing reliever, as most relievers typically rely on their two best pitches. Crismatt has impressed in the 4 1⁄4 major league innings that he has pitched as he has shown solid control (1 BB) and generated a good amount of chases on pitches outside the zone. However, zero conclusions can be drawn from just over four innings. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if he can earn the trust of Mike Shildt and appear in more games. He seems to have been the Cardinals favored option from their alterante site, and a couple more good games could see him earn a roster spot for the foreseeable future.
The major issue with the inning of Gallegos is the question of who will fill his high leverage role. However, it will also be interesting to see if Nabil Crismatt, or any other pitcher can establish themselves if they are given a chance. Reyes, Gant, and Crismatt will certainly be pitchers to watch while Gallegos is shelved and they could all make a push for a more important role while he is injured.