St. Louis Cardinals RHP Alex Reyes to Have Season-Ending Tommy John Surgery

The loss of Alex Reyes will be colossal for the Cardinals.

Initial reports suggested Tuesday that St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes would likely need surgery after an MRI showed damage to his throwing arm. The Cardinals confirmed the worst-case scenario on Wednesday morning, announcing that Reyes will have to undergo Tommy John surgery, costing him the 2017 season and possibly part of 2018.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold wrote Wednesday, Reyes suffered a complete tear of his UCL. The Cardinals believe that the rupture happened all at once rather than over time, explaining the odd timing of the injury diagnosis. Reyes reportedly began feeling pain in his elbow while throwing a side session last week at home in New Jersey.

Losing Reyes, who had a 1.57 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 46 innings last season, will be a major loss for the Cardinals, whether he had contributed out of the bullpen or as a starter this season.

His loss has a two-fold effect; it forces Michael Wacha into the fifth starter spot, which could be harmful considering that the 25-year-old righthander has dealt with chronic shoulder issues through two of the past three seasons and has had to spend significant time on the disabled list.

In addition, the move creates an opening in the Cardinals’ bullpen. Assuming that they don’t make another move, someone like Miguel Socolovich, Sam Tuivailala, John Gant, Zach Phillips, or Jordan Schafer could seize that role.

This is the third time in seven years that the Cardinals have had a prominent starter go down with a serious injury during the opening days of spring training. Adam Wainwright was diagnosed with a UCL tear that required Tommy John surgery in late February of 2011. Chris Carpenter began dealing with shoulder issues that eventually forced him to undergo thoracic outlet surgery in 2012. In addition, closer Jason Motte dealt with elbow issues during spring training of 2013 that eventually brought on Tommy John.

Reyes is ranked as the No. 4 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and the No. 14 prospect by MLB Pipeline. While they’re set to re-rank the system soon, MLB Pipeline rated him as the best prospect in the Cardinals organization on their most recent list.