ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals continue to canvass the free-agent and trade markets for a potential pitching boost, they repeatedly come back to what they already have. And that begins with Alex Reyes.Ranked as the top pitching prospect in baseball one year ago, Reyes never had the opportunity to
ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals continue to canvass the free-agent and trade markets for a potential pitching boost, they repeatedly come back to what they already have. And that begins with Alex Reyes.
Ranked as the top pitching prospect in baseball one year ago, Reyes never had the opportunity to validate the hype. Before he could throw his first bullpen session of Spring Training, Reyes found himself seeking an explanation for the sudden pain in his elbow. A few days later, he was undergoing surgery.
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The procedure cost Reyes the entire 2017 season, but it did little to dampen the long-term expectations for a 23-year-old right-hander who the Cardinals foresee as a future ace. While there is uncertainty about how he'll pitch immediately upon coming back from Tommy John surgery, Reyes dropped only a few spots in MLB Pipeline's new prospect rankings.
He'll enter 2018 ranked as the No. 7 right-handed pitching prospect in the game. Two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who was aggressively courted across baseball before signing with the Angels in December, tops the list. Also slotting in ahead of Reyes is Forrest Whitley (Astros), Michael Kopech (White Sox), Brent Honeywell (Rays), Walker Buehler (Dodgers) and Mitch Keller (Pirates). Hunter Greene (Reds), Triston McKenzie (Indians) and Sixto Sanchez (Phillies) round out the Top 10.
Some of Reyes' teammates would argue that such a ranking is selling the potential National League Rookie of the Year Award contender short.
"When I look back at all the trade negotiations and all the stuff I was reading about and hearing about, I was just thinking, 'Please don't trade Alex Reyes,'" veteran starter Adam Wainwright said. "Man, that guy can be a superstar in this game. I think he's got humongous talent. I think he can be one of the best pitchers in the game."
Reyes still has some rehab work to complete before he can work toward such standing. He's returning to Florida this week to start throwing off the mound. By next week, Reyes hopes to be facing hitters. The Cardinals will be cautious with his workload during Spring Training and have set May 1 as a soft target for his return.
When he's ready, Reyes is likely to jump right back to the Majors, which is where he ended his 2016 season. And though the Cardinals see him a starter for the long-term, Reyes is likely to log some of his first innings of '18 in the bullpen. That will allow the club to monitor his workload.
From there, his fit will be determined by need.
"My arm feels good. My body is feeling great," Reyes said. "I feel like I learned a lot throughout this [last] year being able to watch, read hitters, read approaches. And just being able to dissect video was something I was able to learn this year. Once I get the ball, we will see where it goes from there."