Losing Alex Reyes Is a Big Blow for the St. Louis Cardinals
A lot of us who root for teams that have encountered the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs over the last decade have often referred to their "voo-doo magic" -- a seeming ability to win a ton of games with a roster that doesn't exactly blow anyone's doors off.
Players seem to come to St. Louis, either from the minor leagues or from other franchises and play better than anyone expected. They win 100 games with a roster you wouldn't think could win more than 85. They are in the playoff hunt every year, it seems, no matter what.
But we were reminded this week that even the Cardinals deal with their share of bad luck.
St. Louis has been dealt another devastating blow to their starting rotation, this time to NL Rookie of the Year candidate Alex Reyes, who has been lost for the season to an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery.
Trying to Avoid the Inevitable
Talent evaluators have ranked Reyes as the top pitching prospect in all of baseball and he was expected to compete for a spot in the Cardinals rotation this spring. While hearing he'll be going under the knife is unfortunate, it didn't come out of nowhere.
Reyes had been pitching with a compromised ligament in his pitching elbow since 2013, and a tear of the ligament was a known potential outcome. Still, it's a horrible loss for St. Louis.
He was spectacular in 12 games (5 starts) after being called up last season, going 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA and a 2.67 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), striking out 10.17 batters per nine (K/9) for an fWAR of 1.4. His Triple-A numbers weren't as great -- he posted a 4.96 ERA and a 3.72 FIP in 14 starts there -- but he have K/9 of 12.81.
What separates Reyes from the pack is his explosive arm. He averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball during a brief cup of coffee in the Major Leagues, and can touch 100 when he heats it up. He couples that with a very good changeup that still averages in the upper 80s.
Déjà vu All Over Again
As mentioned earlier, this isn't the first time a Cardinals starter has been lost early in the season to a significant injury.
Last year, it was Lance Lynn, who had a 3.03 ERA in 31 starts for the '15 Cardinals team that won 101 games. In 2015, it was Adam Wainwright, who finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting the year before. In '14, Michael Wacha was coming off an explosive rookie campaign before hurting himself in the middle of the season. Jaime Garcia missed most of 2013, while Chris Carpenter went down in March of 2012 after his heroic postseason during the team's 2011 World Series championship.
And early in '11, Wainwright hurt himself in February, coming off a 2010 season in which he finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting.
Thankfully, the Cardinals weren't depending on Reyes to be a top-of-the-rotation guy this season. They also will still have Wainwright, young stud Carlos Martinez, veteran Mike Leake and Lynn in the first four spots, with Wacha now having a clearer path to landing the fifth spot.
It's likely we'll see St. Louis overcome this, but it's always disheartening when a Major League-ready talent and top prospect is potentially lost for 12-18 months.
So forget about the Cardinals "voo-doo magic" -- they're just really good at overcoming the devastating body blows that would sink most teams.