Cardinals Alex Reyes Breakout in 2017?: Fantasy Value

Aug 23, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Alex Reyes (61) pitches to a New York Mets batter during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. The Mets won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Alex Reyes (61) pitches to a New York Mets batter during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. The Mets won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Alex Reyes is a huge part of the Cardinals’ future. Can fantasy owners target him as a potential breakout candidate in 2017?

Some players just have that look. Alex Reyes is one of those guys and appears to be the next big star in MLB. The Cardinals will rely on him to play a vital role in the team’s success in 2017. But, from a fantasy perspective, can fantasy owners rely on him to be a breakout star next season?

Reyes signed with St. Louis in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic and quickly became one of the best prospects in their system. Armed with an electric fastball that surpasses 100+ mph, one of the hardest breaking balls across MLB, and a late action change-up, the arsenal is downright ridiculous.

He will enter 2017 at the prime age of only, 22-years-old, and already found success in the majors in 2016 out of the bullpen and rotation. He finished last season with a 4 W/1 SV/1.57 ERA/1.21 WHIP/52 K line over five starts and seven appearances out of the bullpen. It was only 46 MLB innings, but he was undoubtedly impressive.

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The great thing about Reyes is that while he is talented, he made adjustments in both roles last season. In the bullpen, his fastball was his strikeout pitch, but he also began to feature his change-up more. Velocity differences play better in short stints, and he recognized that and it shows through the 10% uptick in his change-up usage rate once in the bullpen.

In the rotation, he would feature his fastball, but throw his curve, and sprinkle in a sinker more.  While the fastball still plays great and the change-up still forced a 33% Whiff rate, his curveball is the only thing standing in the way of his stardom. His curveball ranks as having the second most vertical movement in baseball.  Reyes stands in at 6’3 and comes from the stretch, so the pitch is absolutely devastating from a sheer release point standpoint.

He forced a 21% Whiff rate with it last season, but because of its movement, he can not harness its command. Like most young pitchers, control is the last thing that comes around, so this is no surprise. But, his curveball went for a ball over 54% of the time.

One would have to assume that he can improve while maintaining his other stuff. This does not even take into account that he started throwing a slider and sinker more, so he continues to evolve.

With a fastball routinely sitting in the upper 90’s, a change-up that is already forcing a 30% Whiff rate, and one the nastiest breaking curves in the game, everything is here for a fantasy breakout.

The Cardinals have already come out and said that Reyes will compete for a rotation spot in the spring. Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez, are the only starters that are locks for the rotation. Lance Lynn will more than likely have a spot as well, as long as he does not hit any injury issues, leaving the last two spots down to Mike Leake, Michael Wahca, Luke Weaver and Reyes.

Weaver is another talented young arm, but Reyes is clearly the most talented of the bunch. Leake’s 4.69 ERA, and Wacha’s disaster 5.09 ERA in 2016, are clearly replaceable parts. Leake should get the edge for durability, but Reyes should have no issue winning a job. There are already rumblings that Wacha is being considered for a relief role. So the situation is certainly fluid, and initially in Reyes’ favor.

Reyes could easily step into a dominant relief role as well, think of like a Dellin Betances clone, but the Cards need front line SP help. Fantasy owners have to be drooling over Reyes’ potential.  There is the inevitable innings cap that the Cards will have with Reyes. While the risk is that he could be shut down towards the end of the season, he has shown that he can have immense value for owners even put in the bullpen to end the season.

Reyes is one of the most talented young arms in the league. Everything he throws is electric and has late life, giving him the tools needed to become a force in the league. His command will be a work in process, and there will be nights where is yanked after 5 IP, but the K and ERA value he brings is well worth it.

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As the draft gets closer, and it becomes a sure thing that Reyes is headed to the rotation, look for his fantasy value to skyrocket. Fantasy owners need to circle his name and keep track of him this spring, as he has all the making of a fantasy breakout waiting to happen.