photo: Alex Reyes (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)
The news that St. Louis Cardinals top pitching prospect Alex Reyes suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his first game back to the majors since 2016 was crushing in any number of different ways.
Far down the importance list is the 23-year old right-hander’s rookie status. However, to some, it does matter.
Other than his eligibility to compete for the annual National League Rookie of the Year honors, many player ranking sites, including this one, use it as the dividing line between prospect status and graduation to the majors. For the fantasy player, in some cases, rookie qualification can be an important factor in keeper leagues.
Reyes presents a very interesting example, as he currently sits right on the line – and will remain that way for some time. In 2016, he threw 46 innings for St. Louis and finished four more before exiting his 2018 big-league debut.
With a total of exactly 50 MLB innings pitched, is Reyes still a rookie or not?
A source conflict
Major League Baseball itself should be the definitive source to answer this question, I felt, so I headed to their official website. I left, more confused than when I arrived. Depending on where you look, the answer was slightly – but in this case, significantly – different.
MLB source #1: Reyes is no longer a rookie.
To be considered a rookie, a player must have entered a season below each of the following thresholds:
- 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues.
- 45 total days on an active Major League roster prior to Sept. 1, when clubs are allowed to expand their rosters from the 25-player limit to include any player on the 40-man roster.
MLB source #2: Reyes remains a rookie.
A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).
Other Cardinals prospects passing Reyes
Reyes has been The Cardinal Nation’s top prospect for the last three years and could very well extend that to a fourth year, depending on this ruling. While there is obvious concern about his new injury and recovery ahead, there can be no debate that his four minor league rehab games in May were nothing short of dominating.
That helped raise expectations even further – expectations that were obliterated with his season-ending injury.
Another factor is that Reyes’ competition at the top of the organization’s prospect list continues to graduate. Already this season, Harrison Bader and Jack Flaherty have passed the 130/50 mark. Jordan Hicks and Yairo Muñoz will perhaps be among the next to reach the milestone this season, with Carson Kelly and Tyler O’Neill having a shot as well.
All are/were ranked among our top 10 in the system. If all were no longer prospects in the official sense, however, the top names with Reyes could become Dakota Hudson, Andrew Knizner and Ryan Helsley. Each has his strengths, but have they shown/will they show enough to pass Reyes this season?
Reyes’ national rankings
Reyes made his first appearances on national top 100 lists prior to the 2015 season, with rankings generally in the 50-80 range. The next year, he ascended into the top 10s of all major raters, with the exception of MLB.com (13).
By 2017, Reyes was not only a consensus top 10 prospect, he received the number one rating in all of baseball from Baseball Prospectus. His lost year while coming back from Tommy John surgery led to spread of opinions prior to this season – ranging from two no. 8 votes, to three placements in the second 10 to one as low as no. 27 overall (ESPN).
If he remains eligible another year, would Reyes’ slow slide continue? How difficult will his recovery be?
Getting the answer
For a definitive answer to my qualification question, I went to a friend, Vice President of Stats for MLB Advanced Media, Cory Schwartz.
Among his responsibilities, Cory oversees live data capture for the official stats for all Major League Baseball, minor league and winter league games, as well as the Statcast player and ball-tracking system. He also leads the integration of these stats and tracking data into MLB.com’s live applications – including the At-Bat, Gameday and MLB.TV products – and with all 30 MLB clubs.
I figured that if Cory did not know the official answer, he would know who could provide it.
Sure enough, he did.
“A player must not have exceeded the limits, so someone with exactly 130 at-bats is still rookie eligible,” Schwartz replied. “I’ll ask our editorial crew to clean this up. Thanks for pointing it out!”
Now, the glossary reads as follows:
“A player shall be considered a rookie unless he has exceeded any of the following thresholds in a previous season (or seasons):”
Bottom line, Reyes remains a rookie and The Cardinal Nation’s number one prospect – until further notice.
What is next
Our June refresh of the Cardinals top 50 prospect list, incorporating the draft class of 2018, will be up next, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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