Leake’s bout with the varicella-zoster virus continues what’s been an up-and-down first season for him with the Cardinals. In 25 starts since signing a five-year deal worth $80 million during the winter to serve as a boring mid-rotation workhorse, he’s compiled numbers that would tie his career-worst ERA+ (90), yet would set a new-career best in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.50).
Leake recently went through a confusing stretch, where he allowed at least six runs in three consecutive starts, then allowed six runs total over his next three starts. Such a performance fluctuation has been shared by other members of the St. Louis’ rotation, including Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia. That’s why — though losing Leake to a shelf already stocked with Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn is a bad thing — there could be a silver lining here. The move means they’ll get a longer look at Alex Reyes in the rotation.
Reyes made his first big-league start in Leake’s place on Saturday, throwing 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Athletics. That appearance displayed the good (he has high-quality stuff, led by an explosive heater) and bad (his command needs work) that have come to define Reyes as a prospect. Something else that has remained the same is the reality that he has a high ceiling. If — and it’s a big if — Reyes can better harness his stuff, he could in time turn into a front-of-the-rotation starter, something the Cards could use, given their so-so performances elsewhere:
Obviously it’s overzealous to expect Reyes to figure out things over the ensuing few weeks, however, the Cardinals can only hope that he forces some interesting conversations. Should Reyes perform well, would St. Louis roll with him in a potential playoff rotation — assuming, that is, they make the postseason and advance past the Wild Card Game — or would they banish him to the bullpen? Making this all the more complicated is the fact that Lynn is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, giving the Cardinals yet another potential option to fill out their playoff pitching staff.
This much is clear: the Cardinals have to feel uneasy about their rotation’s inconsistency. This much is, too: their answers could be right in front of them, or not at all. We’ll find out soon enough.
Source: CBS Sports / Cardinals face more rotation questions as Mike Leake hits DL