St. Louis Cardinals rotation in 2016 was gravely inferior to the 2015 season. Then, injury hit the rotation with Michael Wacha and Mike Leake going down. Rare shoulder injury for Wacha revisited and Leake out with shingles. Prospect pitchers Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes were brought up from Memphis Triple-A with high hopes, not only to fill-in the blanks, but to boost performance. Weaver was immediately placed in the rotation, looked pretty solid out of the gate (August - 3.86 ERA); but, then the major leaguers began to read him too well (September - 8.22 ERA). Reyes began in the bullpen.
22 year old rookie Alex Reyes will be competing for a spot in the Cardinals rotation during the upcoming Spring Training to open February 14, 2017.
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Reyes, coming to St. Louis in August, was questioned by many as to his readiness for the majors. At Memphis, he was 2-3 in 14 game starts, 65.1 IP holding a 4.96 ERA. He had allowed 63 hits for 6 HR/36 ER. A 1.454 WHIP with a 32/93 BB-K ratio. It was the strikeouts that fans seemed to zero in on and very excited to see him brought up. And, he did not disappoint and probably surprised those who questioned his readiness.
Compared to Memphis, Reyes was lights-out in mid-to-late inning relief. He made his debut against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium, August 9th, 2016. For the month, he pitched a total of 14 innings. August 27, 4.2 IP of his fourteen, was the first he recorded an ERA of 0.64. By the end of the month, he had earned one win, one hold and had one save to his credit. For September, he held a 1.97 ERA, still a far cry from Triple-A pitching. Of his 32 IP, eight of those innings were in relief. He made his debut as a starter, September 2, once again against the Reds at Great American Ballpark. He was handed a no-decision in that Cardinals loss. His next two appearances were behind Mike Leake and Jaime Garcia for long innings. His remaining three games played, he was back as part of the rotation. He closed 2016, 4-1/1-S/1-H/1.57 ERA. He brought his WHIP down to 1.22 and had 52 SO; but, still issued 23 free passes.
With the MLB Spring training scheduled to begin February 14, with catchers and pitchers to report on Valentine's Day - morning meetings and warm-ups will begin. The rest of the field players and invitees will report in, a few days later. Reyes will retain his rookie status into 2017.
Cardinals fans saw a very small sampling of the young hurler. Reyes was solid, confident and held his own in the majors over 12 game appearances, five game starts and three games finished. He will be in competition for a rotation spot ("IF" that is what the Cardinals have planned for him) with Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn (returning from TJ surgery), Mike Leake, Michael Wacha. "IF" he should pitch his way into the rotation at the close of ST, I foresee him with an ERA around the 3.00 mark with a projected 150-160 strikeouts for 2017. It will be his "walk" ratio that will keep his average higher, in my opinion. On the flip-side, he may just "wow" again, keeping his low ERA and be in contention, not only for Rookie of the Year, but possibly a Cy Young Award. Okay ~ back to reality, but exciting to think about. Even though, strange things happen in baseball when one least expects them. Reyes certainly surprised a few doubting scouts in the MLB. And, even with the 'small sample', he certainly has the potential to help make a difference in the Cardinals rotation.
CARDINALS WITHOUT A LEFT-HANDED STARTER FOR 2017
Cardinals are currently without a left-handed starting pitcher. They did not exercise the option for starter LHP Jaime Garcia. LHP Tyler Lyons had knee surgery (right) late in the season with an expected five to six months recovery time. Therefore, he is not expected be at Spring training this season. The question will be for Lyons, just how soon will his return be scheduled. I feel Lyons would be the only viable option for a left-hander in the rotation. However, looking at the bullpen - his services may very well be needed there, also.
IN CARDINALS BULLPEN
Cardinals lost LHP/reliever Zach Duke to Tommy Johns surgery early this off-season. He was a very strong piece in the Cardinals bullpen last season; but, won't return until 2018. That leaves LHP's Kevin Siegrist, Brett Cecil and, possibly prospect LHP Marco Gonzales, also, coming back from his 2016 season ending TJ surgery. Who, in the non-roster invitees, might the Cardinals look to for help for Siegrist, along with Cecil. Zack Phillips? Jordan Schafer? Both Phillips and Schafer are 30 years old. Schafer was brought from the outfield to the mound last season in the minors by the LA Dodgers. Schafer, a pitcher with versatility. But, as it stands now, once again, Siegrist is our "lefty extraordinaire". He was relied upon heavily even with lefties in the bullpen. Cardinals did pick-up 30 year old lefty Brett Cecil this offseason. He will help Siegrist in sharing appearances ... but, I feel, we need one more solid lefty. We do know Manager Mike Matheny relies heavily upon his bullpen. With the two left-handers, will they remain healthy to carry the load that will come their way? Even Siegrist experienced "stressed arm" last season. Fortunately, short lived, but ~ just sayin'. "IF" Lyons returns by the Cardinals "Opening Night" game to be placed on the roster, how soon would he be asked to take the hill?
Many Cardinals fans wanted to see a "power bat" brought on board during this off-season. I'm thinking 'looking for a south-paw hurler' should have been at the top of the list for our rotation. BUT, I don't hold the Cardinals checkbook; nor, the Cardinals pen.