Arturo Reyes has opened eyes in the Cardinals' camp this spring, showing he may deserve a higher prospect ranking. (Mark Harrell/Springfield Cardinals)
By Rob Rains
JUPITER, Fla. - Arturo Reyes might be the most overlooked, under-the-radar pitching prospect in the Cardinals’ organization. What he has done so far this spring, however, could be changing that status.
Ever since he was drafted in 2013, Reyes has been known more for who he isn’t than who he is – he is the “other” Reyes, the one not named Alex; he also has been the “other” pitcher from Gonzaga not named Marco Gonzales.
While those two pitchers have been sidelined this spring because of Tommy John surgery, Reyes has capitalized on his opportunity to open eyes within the organization.
“I use it as motivation and I feel like it’s kind of nice,” Reyes said of not having to battle a lot of high expectations and the pressures associated with being a top prospect. “I don’t have to worry so much.”
All Reyes has to do is pitch, and that’s exactly what he has done.
In his two spring appearances, Reyes has worked a combined 4 1/3 scoreless innings and has allowed only two hits with one strikeout.
“I’m happy that he is seizing a huge opportunity,” said Gonzales, who was Reyes’ teammate at Gonzaga for one year after Reyes transferred from a junior college. “He came at a time when his role (at Gonzaga) was pretty undecided. He got moved around from a weekend starter, to a midweek starter, to a reliever to a closer. He didn’t have a consistent role and that might be one of the reasons he is overlooked now is because he didn’t have an established role.
“He can be a starter, a reliever, a lights out closer.One of the things I have always told me is he doesn’t understand how good he is. As he keeps moving forward I hope his confidence grows.”
The 24-year-old Reyes has made a steady advancement through the organization since his selection in the 40th, and final, round of the draft – exactly 1,186 spots after Gonzales was drafted in the first round as the 19th overall pick.
One of Reyes’ concerns before deciding to sign with the Cardinals was how he would be treated because of his draft position. Once he was assured he would be treated the same as every other pitcher, judged on his accomplishments, he signed instead of going back to school for his senior season.
“They have given me opportunities,” said Reyes, who went 9-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 21 starts at Memphis last season.
When he found out he would be coming to the major-league camp this spring as a non-roster player, Reyes knew this was an opportunity he did not want to waste.
“When I was on the other side (in the minor league camp) I thought about how fast the game was going to be if I got here, how crazy it would be,” Reyes said. “But once you start going up levels, you realize it’s the same game. The only thing changing is your own mind.
“I always thought I would be nervous, but when I got here I was with a bunch of guys I’ve played with in the past, so it made it much more comfortable. The older guys around here communicate very well with the younger guys and make you feel welcome as well.
“I know some people come here and expect to stay a couple of weeks and go back down, but my goal is to stay here as long as I can. If I didn’t do that, I would be kind of selling myself short.”
Reyes believes improving his focus on the mound, and understanding what he has to do to be successful, has been the biggest key to his success.
“I’m not going out there and trying to over throw,” Reyes said. “I’m learning how to pitch instead of just going out there throwing. There’s really not that big of a jump as long as you learn how to control some of the things mentally. That’s what has helped me a lot.”
Reyes is not the only prospect who has opened eyes with his performance so far this spring in the Cardinals’ camp. Here are five others who likely will not make the opening day roster, but have shown their time will come, for some sooner rather than later.
Paul DeJong – After a stint in the Arizona Fall League last October, DeJong came to camp as an intriguing player and he has lived up to his advance billing. Slated to open the season as the starting shortstop at Memphis, a relatively new position, DeJong can also play third and second and has demonstrated a quick bat and baseball instincts, always asking questions to Mike Matheny about strategy and other in-game decisions.
Magneuris Sierra – One unidentified major league coach asked Matheny this spring if Sierra was going to make his team. Matheny had to tell him the 20-year-old Sierra has not played a game above low Class A. That was the kind of impression Sierra has made in this camp, both offensively and defensively, more than justifying his status as one of the top position prospects in the organization.
Harrison Bader – Like DeJong, Bader has shown this spring that he could play in the major leagues now if he happened to be on a team that needed an outfielder. The Cardinals believe he will benefit more now from playing every day in Memphis instead of playing once or twice a week in St. Louis. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions, and the Cardinals like his aggressiveness both at the plate and In the field.
Dennis Ortega – Matheny said he normally would not even think about putting a 19-year-old catcher into a spring training game, but he has done it with Ortega, who played last season at the Gulf Coast League – seven levels below the major leagues. Matheny has been impressed with Ortega’s skillset, and while he might be the player farthest away from the majors on this list, he definitely has quickly become a player who bears watching.
Sandy Alcantara – The Cardinals are loaded with pitching talent, and one member of that group who has made major strides in the past year is Alcantara. He has added weight to his 6-foot-4 frame but still can carry more, and he already has one skill that really can’t be taught – the ability to throw a baseball 100 miles an hour. He is learning the other pitches to go with that fastball.
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