Cards add No. 24 prospect Thomas to 40-man

November 16th, 2022

The Cardinals added left-hander Connor Thomas, who was voted the Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Year earlier this week, to their 40-man roster on Tuesday. That means Thomas -- St. Louis' No. 24-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline -- won’t be in jeopardy in the Rule 5 Draft next month.

The addition of the 24-year-old Thomas, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 Draft out of Georgia Tech, bumps the Cardinals' 40-man roster to 39 players. The organization's front office has made it known that it is in the market to add an everyday catcher, and possibly a power bat to offer more lineup protection for superstars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, either via free agency or in a trade.

The Rule 5 Draft will be held on Dec. 7 during the MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego. Players who are signed at 18 or younger and are not added to the 40-man roster within five seasons, or players 19 years old and not added to the 40-man roster within four years, can be selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Notably, the Cards chose not to protect right-hander Inohan Paniagua (ranked No. 13), who went 8-6 with a 2.81 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 137 2/3 innings between Single-A Palm Beach and High-A Peoria last season.

The Cardinals must decide by Friday whether they plan to offer arbitration-eligible players contracts for next season or whether they non-tender any of their arb-eligible players. A non-tender means that player would become a free agent, which would give the Cards another open spot on their 40-man roster.

Alex Reyes, thought to be a star of the future for years by the Cardinals but derailed by injuries, is a candidate to be a non-tender because of yet another arm injury. Reyes, 28, is eligible for a third round of arbitration, and he could even get a raise, even though he didn't pitch in 2022. But because Reyes likely won't be ready for the 2023 season following surgery to repair a frayed right labrum, the Cardinals are considering non-tendering the talented pitcher, per president of baseball operations John Mozeliak.

There is no firm timetable on when Reyes might be ready to pitch in 2023 after undergoing surgery last May, Mozeliak said. Reyes, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder with an upper-90s fastball and a wipeout curveball, was an NL All-Star in 2021, when he pitched in 69 Major League games. Reyes went 10-8 with a 3.24 ERA and 29 saves before injuring his shoulder and losing his closer job to Giovanny Gallegos.

Reyes notably surrendered a walk-off home run to Chris Taylor in the 2021 NL Wild Card Game at Dodger Stadium, then showed up to Spring Training last March with pain in his shoulder. In parts of five MLB seasons, Reyes is 16-11 with a 2.86 ERA and 31 saves in 36 opportunities. Across his 145 innings pitched, Reyes has 177 strikeouts compared to 97 walks.

The Cardinals showed tremendous faith in Thomas by assigning him to play in the Arizona Fall League despite a poor year at Triple-A Memphis. He went 6-12 with a 5.47 ERA in 28 games with the Redbirds while struggling specifically with right-handed pitching.

On the advice of former St. Louis pitching coach Mike Maddux and with the assistance of Cardinals all-time saves leader and roving scout Jason Isringhausen, Thomas developed a cut fastball in hopes of better neutralizing right-handed hitters. He used that pitch to lead the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts (34) while compiling a 1.75 ERA over 25 2/3 innings in six starts. In addition to being named the AFL’s Pitcher of the Year, he was one of the starting pitchers for the Arizona Fall Stars Game.

Thomas made strides as a pitcher in the Arizona Fall League, where he got comfortable with pitching to contact. Even though his fastball usually sits in the upper-80s-to-low-90s range, he was able to often induce weak contact with pitches that cut and ride away from the barrels of bats.

“I’ve got to be fearless,” Thomas told’s Jesse Borek. “I’ve got to have confidence in myself as a pitcher knowing that what I do gets outs and is effective. Just trusting that every time I go out there, I’m going to be effective.

“I’m not afraid of contact because I know that’s where I’m going to be effective and last long into games. I feel like I’m an old-school guy. Just trying to bring back the classics.”