4 overreactions to the Cardinals' first week of Spring Training games

It's overreaction season! One week into exhibition games, what can we glean from the 2024 version of the Cardinals?

Feb 18, 2023; Jupiter, FL, USA;  St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Ryan Helsley (56) warms up
Feb 18, 2023; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Ryan Helsley (56) warms up / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Ryan Helsley's velocity isn't there this year.

Ryan Helsley went down early in the season with a forearm strain. As a result, he only threw 36.2 innings in 2023. While they were effective, that total isn't where the Cardinals need their former All-Star to reach. As the team's presumptive closer, Helsley should be closer to 60 total innings on the season.

He was still effective in limited time. His 2.45 ERA and .176 batting average against were among the best for closers across baseball. St. Louis is hoping he can stay healthy and maintain that production or even have a season closer to his 2022 season, one in which he had an All-Star appearance.

He has pitched only 2 innings in spring going into Thursday's games, so the sample size is tiny. However, Helsley's velocity was noticeably down from 2023. His 4-seam fastball topped out at just 86.5 MPH in his first appearance, and his slider peaked at 82.6 MPH. His second outing featured much-improved velocity, but it still wasn't quite where it was last year.

Last year, Helsley's fastball averaged 99.7 MPH, and his slider averaged 89 MPH. His slider is sitting about 1 MPH below last year's average, and his fastball is almost 1.5 MPH slower. As Helsley continues to ramp up in spring, we will hopefully see a continued boost in velocity. His initial outing was cause for concern, but after his second showing, fans' worries should be assuaged mildly.

Given his injury last year, it is reasonable to be cautious regarding Helsley's velocity. It is something to keep an eye on throughout spring training and during the regular season. Helsley's velocity is his calling car, so it is imperative that his fastball touches 100+ MPH consistently. The former All-Star is a key cog to the team's success in 2024.