Reyes dominates in first Fall League start
Cardinals' No. 1 prospect leads Surprise to victory with scoreless outing
SCOTTSDALE, AZ -- The next great Cardinal arm made short work of the Arizona Fall League Thursday night. Alex Reyes, the No. 16 prospect in baseball and No. 1 prospect in St. Louis' farm system, delivered an impressive start for Surprise in a 3-0 win over Mesa.
Reyes, 21, worked into the fourth inning and recorded five strikeouts in his Fall Leage debut, and Surprise wound up with the first shutout of the young AFL season. His fastball was sitting around 97-98 mph throughout his start.
Reyes allowed just one hit, following up on a campaign that saw him thrive against upper-level bats for the first time.
"It feels good just to get out there and to get a feel, to be back on the mound and compete with these guys," said Reyes, who signed with St. Louis out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. "It's a tremendous dugout and a tremendous clubhouse, and it was absolutely fun to be out there tonight."
Reyes, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., was dominant at two levels this season. He posted a 2.26 ERA for Class A Advanced Palm Beach to earn a promotion to Double-A Springfield, where he went 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA in eight starts. Reyes had 151 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings between both stops, and he gave up just one home run in 22 starts.
In his AFL debut, Reyes showed the same overpowering stuff. The right-hander struck out the first two batters he faced Thursday, and, after allowing two runners on a hit and a walk, ended the inning with another strikeout. Reyes wound up retiring eight of the final nine batters he faced before exiting in the fourth.
Carlos Subero, the manager for the Surprise Saguaros, was impressed with the effort.
"It's the first time I've seen Alex, and he had electric stuff," said Subero. "The good thing about Alex is that he's able to throw a breaking pitch behind in the count. He's not just a great fastball -- mid-90's and up -- that he just comes in and throws it by you. The kid pitches. He'll throw a changeup. He'll throw a curveball behind in the count. Those are things that definitely add some value to what he does."
The only thing that slowed Reyes down this year was was a sore right shoulder at midseason, but he overcame the ailment and finished strong. The youngster took a few days off after the season before heading to Instructional League to freshen up in preparation for the AFL.
"It's tough to just shut down knowing that you're going to be playing in a couple weeks," he said. "The Cardinals are an organization that always wants to play in the playoffs, and that's something I believe in and I want to be a part of. If I'm able to do my job now in October, that's what they're looking for."
Reyes got four ground balls and a popup Thursday night, and only one of his outs left the infield. The Saguaros had hoped to push him through four innings, but his strikeouts resulted in an elevated pitch count and he ultimately fell one out short. Reyes credited his catcher for calling an excellent game.
"Gary Sanchez behind the plate, he's amazing," he said of the Yankees' No. 5 prospect. "He pretty much took control. I was hitting my spots early in the game and we just ran with what he was putting down."
Royals No. 5 prospect Bubba Starling had a big night for Surprise, notching three hits and an RBI, and he also cut down a Mesa runner who tried to score on a sacrifice fly. But the tone of the game was set by Reyes, and Surprise got 5 1/3 innings of three-hit relief from its bullpen once he left the mound.
Reyes is well aware that he plays in a pitching-rich organization, but he said he tries not to think about how close he might be to the Major Leagues. That will all work itself out in time, he said. For now, Reyes just wants to keep mowing down Minor League batters and pitching to the best of his ability.
"I wouldn't say happy," he said of his season. "I'm excited for the future. Pitching in the Minors is a great thing, but my goal is to be in the Major Leagues one day and that's what I'm striving for."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com.