NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—One of baseball’s top pitching prospects is in good shape to crack the Opening Day rotation of a National League contender.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings that righthander Alex Reyes will be firmly in the mix to be a member of the Cardinals’ starting group and hinted the young flamethrower has an inside track at a rotation spot.
“There are certain guys who have innings slotted and set for them and now Alex is going to have those,” Matheny said. “He’s earned that. He’s deserved that. He showed us exactly what we were hoping for and then some.”
Reyes, 22, made his ML debut last August and went 4-1, 2.59 in 12 appearances while showing 100 mph heat and devastating breaking pitches.
He dominated in relief but also showed exceptionally well as a starter, going 2-0, 2.25 in his five starts while limiting opponents to a .622 OPS in that role.
“There was a lot of expectation on Alex Reyes from the day he showed up in St. Louis and he never batted an eye,” Matheny said. “We threw him in situations you would not normally throw a kid into and he not only survived, but he excelled.”
Reyes will have competition for a rotation spot, with Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha all due back for St. Louis, and Matheny was careful not to explicitly define what Reyes’ role will be.
“We like to compete, so we like to show up to spring training ready to earn our jobs,” Matheny said. “We don’t make that mistake of telling anybody going to hit in any particular spot or pitch in a certain spot . . . We bring these players in with the idea they’re going to have to go out and earn it.”
First Base Not Gallo’s Yet
“We’ve got to evaluate all of our players and where they fit on the team and evaluate whether the best thing is going to be for Joey to be on the major league team or continue to get at-bats,” Banister said. “When you dial down on a Joey Gallo, the exit velocity when he puts the ball in play, he’s in an elite category. So we know the potential is there, but it’s just the ability to be consistent with that potential.”
Gallo has 152 home runs and a .956 career OPS in five minor league seasons, but has appeared in the majors each of the last two years and struck out in 76 of his 153 plate appearances, just a shade under a 50 percent strikeout rate.
“When you get to the big leagues you’ve still got to put some numbers on the board, you’ve still got to be able to produce (and) show the ability to play at this level,” Banister said. “He’s put up some monster numbers at the minor league level but he’s also been challenged at the major league level. The thing we need to have for Joey is, again, it comes down to consistency and showing the ability to make adjustments and handle the major league level.”
Urias, De Leon in Dodgers Plans
The Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw figures to be tough to crack with Rich Hill returning on a three-year, $48 million contract and veterans Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood all due back from injury.
“A big part,” Roberts said when asked how much of a role Urias and De Leon could reasonably expect to play in 2017 given the Dodgers rotation depth. “Those guys came up last year and impacted our club. They’ve arrived. For me I don’t look at them as prospects. I look at them as major league pitchers.”
Urias, 20, made his long-awaited major league debut last June and went 5-2, 3.39 in 18 appearances (15 starts). De Leon, 24, came up in September and immediately showed swing-and-miss stuff with 15 strikeouts in 19 innings, albeit while getting hit around a fair bit and finishing 2-0, 6.35 in four starts.
Both have been fixtures near the top of the Dodgers top prospect list in recent years, with Urias graduating in 2016 and De Leon still prospect-eligible but not far behind.
“I think speaking for the coaches and the organization, the guys who are going to give us the best chance to win baseball games are going to pitch,” Roberts said. “For me it’s not about service, it’s not about contracts, it’s about the best players, so I expect them to help us this season.”