St. Louis Cardinals: The silver lining to Alex Reyes’ lost year

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 13: Reliever Alex Reyes
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 13: Reliever Alex Reyes /

The loss of Alex Reyes in 2017 created opportunity for other St. Louis Cardinals’ pitchers.

Alex Reyes is the top St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect, a title he continues to hold in advance of the 2018 season.  Indeed, when Reyes debuted in the majors, he started five games and went 4-1 with a minuscule 1.57 ERA over forty-six innings pitched.  He amassed 1.4 WAR in those forty-six innings and struck out batters at a 10.2 k/9 clip.  Wow.  This kid matched the hype in 2016, and he even beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Needless to say, the St. Louis Cardinals and fans alike dreamt of what Reyes’ performance would look like over a full season in the rotation.  In 2017, Reyes was to be given that chance to grab a rotation spot and show the world his vast capabilities.

Unfortunately, during spring training in February 2017, reports emerged Alex Reyes required Tommy John surgery to repair the ruptured ligament in his right (throwing) elbow.  The St. Louis Cardinals were counting on Reyes to be a big contributor in 2017 before the injury.  While the loss of Reyes was unfortunate, and probably exacerbated problems for the 2017 Cardinals, there were several good things that came from the Reyes injury.

In this article, I highlight a few key examples of the silver lining from the Alex Reyes injury.

Michael Wacha secures a rotation spot.

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

It was no secret Michael Wacha was a candidate to lose his spot in the rotation before the 2017 season.  Wacha’s career (after his masterful 2013 debut and postseason) is riddled with injuries and inconsistencies.  Wacha is great when he is on, and he is hittable and really bad when he loses his arm slot and misses location.

But, Wacha re-acquired his rotation spot when Reyes went down with the injury.  What did Wacha do?  He solidified his spot in the rotation by making thirty starts.  At times he was very good, but he was just above average overall.  He showed the team the ability to be a solid three-guy in a major league rotation.  Wacha needs to work on lasting longer in games, but the St. Louis Cardinals were very pleased with his performance in the rotation last year.

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He does not get that opportunity, and may not be with the team at all, if Alex Reyes does not suffer his injury.

Wacha seized the opportunity and rehabilitated his value to the St. Louis Cardinals and to the market (indeed, Wacha’s name continues to surface in trade rumors this offseason).

Similarly, the lack of depth that resulted from the Reyes injury required the Cardinals to hold onto Mike Leake much longer than they would have.  But, the emergence of another pitcher who got his shot when Reyes went down made Mike Leake disposable.

Luke Weaver rises up

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

Unlike Reyes, Luke Weaver was trending in the wrong direction heading into, and during, the 2016 season.  Weaver’s trend continued when he missed more than a month after fracturing his non-throwing wrist during a workout.

The ever-determined Weaver, however, worked relentlessly and had a great showing in spring training before the 2017 season.  Weaver did not make the team out of spring training, but he continued to dominate at AAA.  Indeed, Weaver went 10-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 15 starts for Memphis.  Then, Weaver got the call to the show.

Did Weaver regress in St. Louis?  Hardly.  Weaver was dominant until his last two starts of the season.  Even with his two late-season clunkers, Weaver went 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA and struck out a dazzling 10.7/nine.  Weaver entrenched himself in the rotation conversation for the upcoming season.  He also increased his value to the market as many teams bandied about Weaver in potential trade discussions.

Are you sensing a theme?  The St. Louis Cardinals learned a ton of information about personnel in the wake of Alex Reyes’ injury.  As mentioned above, Michael Wacha grasped his rotation spot with a stronghold and eased concerns about his durability, Luke Weaver emerged as a top prospect with the stuff and fortitude to get MLB hitters out, and the market value of these two young pitchers increased substantially.

In addition to the rehabilitation of Wacha and the emergence of Weaver, the St. Louis Cardinals positioned themselves to dispose of Mike Leake, in part by paying him to go play in Seattle.  Additionally, another young pitcher, Jack Flaherty, got an extended look in the majors.

With Flaherty, the St. Louis Cardinals learned that the young strikeout machine is not quite ready for regular time in the majors.  But, similar to the path to the sustained success experienced by Reyes and Weaver, Flaherty learned a lot from his time in the majors and now has specific action items on which to improve before his next call-up.

St. Louis Cardinals
ST. LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 1: Jack Flaherty /

The market also gained exposure to Flaherty who is highly coveted by other organizations in rumored trade talks.

As you can see, the Alex Reyes injury was not all bad for the St. Louis Cardinals.  The injury allowed the club to gain perspective on several young pitchers that clarify the future of this team and afford the team additional transactional flexibility and depth.  Thus, the injury to Alex Reyes was not all bad, but I, for one, am excited to have Reyes and all of the young pitchers mentioned in this article on a deep Cardinals staff.

Next: Flaherty and Bader to receive honors

What do you think?  Do you see the same silver lining to the Alex Reyes injury as I do?  Please leave a note in the comments and let me know what else we learned in our year without Reyes.