With news out of Jupiter, FL that Alex Reyes will have Tommy John surgery and miss all of the 2017 season it’s time to look at where the Cardinals go from here. Let’s start by pointing out the obvious – no one can replace Alex Reyes. Reyes, considered one of the top RH prospects in baseball was considered the favorite for Rookie of the Year in 2017. You don’t just plug in a guy that can replace Reyes. There are no guys sitting around with a fastball that reaches triple digits, a plus curveball, and the potential to be one of the league’s best 1-2 punches with Carlos Martinez. Reyes was filthy last year sporting a 1.57 ERA over 46 innings. He averaged more than 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and only gave up 1 home run. He could have been one of the 5 starters, a valuable piece to shorten the game out of the bullpen, or more likely a combination of the two. Unfortunately we will have to wait until sometime next year to see him pitch for the Cardinals.
Where do the Cardinals go from here? I’m going to lay out a few of the options the Cardinals have and what might happen as they go forward without Alex Reyes.
Starting Rotation: Leake, Lynn, Martinez, Wacha, Wainwright (not starting a debate on who is the ace or who isn’t, strictly listing alphabetically) However the ace IS Martinez.
Michael Wacha was the pitcher who was “jockeying” with Alex Reyes for the 5th starter job. It really wasn’t going to be a competition though. As long was Wacha was healthy he was probably destined for one of the starting 5 jobs. The Reyes injury means Wacha will now be counted on as the 5th starter. From what I’ve gathered the Cardinals think Wacha will breakdown and eventually need to be replaced in the rotation. In a perfect world Reyes would have started in the bullpen, and then eventually have slid into Wacha’s spot. This would have limited Alex’s innings by working him out of the bullpen and then given the Cardinals a potential ace to add to the rotation for the stretch run. If Wacha falters or breaks down (or any of the other starters for that matter) where do the Cardinals turn? I will break down the available depth options for a starting pitcher who are currently on the 40 man roster.
- Luke Weaver – The 23 year old lanky righthander made his major league debut last season and pitched to a 5.70 ERA while throwing in 9 games (8 starts). This doesn’t exactly ooze confidence. However if you take away his last start of the season at Colorado (not exactly a pitcher’s paradise) and his only relief appearance in the last week of the season against Cincinnati, he pitched to a 3.21 ERA. His last 2 & ⅔ innings he allowed 11 earned runs. I can live with the Cardinals “6th starter” having a 3.21 ERA. It’s also important to remember he’s only 23 and should be more comfortable during his next turn in the big leagues.
- Tyler Lyons – The 28 year old lefty is coming off of a injury and isn’t expected to be available until sometime in May. He has 20 starts over the past 4 seasons and could be used as a starter when healthy. When I think of Tyler Lyons all I can remember is the 7 innings of 4 hit ball he pitched against Pittsburgh striking out 5 and walking none on September 30th 2015 when the Cardinals clinched the division.
- Marco Gonzales – Turning 25 tomorrow, the forgotten lefty is coming off of a lost season because of Tommy John surgery. The last time he pitched in St. Louis was back in September of 2015. Over 10 games (5 starts) in 2014 he pitched to a 4.15 ERA. Gonzales best showing was back on August 30th 2014 when he went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits against the Chicago Cubs. A lot of time has passed since he earned the win against the Cubs, but the hope is a healthy Gonzales can be a contributor to the Cardinals this season.
- Trevor Rosenthal – Don’t laugh, but the Cards are stretching the former closer out to become more than a one inning reliever. Rosenthal who came up as a starter in the minors has never shied away from wanting to start. After his last outing of 2016, 3IP 2H 4K and 52 pitches, there may be potential for a longer role.
- John Gant – A newcomer from Atlanta (picked up in the Jamie Garcia trade) pitched in 20 games for the Braves while starting 7. Primarily used as a starter in the minors, he started in 81 of 87 games pitched, Gant made his major league debut last season. He pitched to an ERA of almost 5 last year and had mixed results as a starter. Whether he pitches as a starter or reliever you’ll end up knowing John Gant as “the guy with the crazy delivery”. If you haven’t seen him pitch yet I’d suggest a YouTube search. Side note – He did strike out 5 Cubs in his first big league start, so maybe Cardinals fans will become John Gant fans.
- Mike Mayers – Mayers made his major league debut on Sunday night baseball last season vs. the Dodgers and pitched to the tune of a 60.75 ERA while giving up 9 ER in 1 and ⅓ innings. In 25 starts between AA & AAA he pitched to a 3.19 ERA. I’ll chalk up his debut as just a bad outing, but if Mayers finds himself taking regular turns in the Cardinals rotation this season we have more than just an Alex Reyes problem in St. Louis.
The loss of Reyes is two fold because it takes a dynamic arm out of the bullpen as well. Likely candidates to pick up slack from not having a 22 year old who throws 100mph as a bridge to Cecil/Siegrist and Oh are probably going to have to be done as a “all hands on deck approach”. However, the most likely candidates to see a change in their roles are John Gant, Marco Gonzales, Trevor Rosenthal, and Miguel Socolovich. Socolovich, who is out of options, is probably now a lock for making the opening day roster. All he’s done since coming to St. Louis in 2015 is pitch in 43 games with an ERA of less than 2.00. While Soco typically is a 1 inning or less guy, over ¼ of his appearances have gone more than an inning. I think he’s justified a bigger role this year with the Cardinals.
Reyes not being available definitely puts the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals at a disadvantage. However, as my fellow Cardinal fan Jeff says “Next man up”. I think the Cardinals have some internal options that can step in for Reyes. If Matheny can mix and match to utilize guys in the right roles, the team can overcome the loss of Alex Reyes and potentially be stronger moving into 2018.