(KMOV.com) -- When the Cards’ best pitching prospect Alex Reyes was passed over for a spot start in favor of Jaime Garcia on short rest, fans quickly second-guessed the decision, especially when Garcia failed badly. And when it was announced highly prized prospect and second round draft pick Charlie Tilson was traded for a career journeyman pitcher, the second-guessing picked up again.
Both moves perplexed fans. But in the seemingly inscrutable world of baseball, both had a basis in sound logic.
Reyes was pulled after three innings in his minor league start a week ago, leading to speculation he would, at long last, make his major league debut against the Marlins in Miami Saturday night. Reyes dazzled in the Futures game, whiffing four in less than two innings as the starting pitcher. After Mike Mayers' disastrous start a week earlier, surely Reyes would get the call, fans reasoned. Instead, Garcia went on short rest, was clearly not himself and the Redbirds lost 11-0.
But the fact the Garcia experiment failed utterly is not proof Reyes should have pitched.
BaseballStL interviewed Reyes no fewer than five times, the first at low Class A Peoria. He has the size and physical make-up to be a front of the rotation starter someday and his maturity continues to develop. But physical size and a heavy fastball are not all it takes to be a major league pitcher. Reyes has thrown just 55 innings this year. He is getting further away from being ready, not closer. Going into Tuesday's game against Round Rock, he is 2-2 with an ERA over 5. He has not won a game since June 13 and his numbers since then are getting worse. In his last seven games, he has surrendered 36 hits and 23 earned runs in 33 innings, an ERA over 6. He still has the strikeout pitch (40 in that period) but he is not getting hitters at Class AAA to chase balls out of the zone like he did at the lower levels.
The Cardinals cannot afford to have him melt down like Mayers did in his debut. Reyes does not lack in confidence, but a terrible debut can set back a pitcher by months and, in fact, some never recover. Not pitching Reyes was the correct decision. Unfortunately, starting Garcia was not.
Likewise, BaseballStL first interviewed Charlie Tilson when he was in Peoria three years ago. Tilson has plus-speed, a good glove and a .315 average as a leadoff man for Memphis. He missed most of one whole season with an injury so his progress is even more remarkable in that he was drafted right out of high school and was already in Class AAA. Tilson figured to get a look when the rosters expand next month so his trade for Zach Duke was a head scratcher at first blush.
But a close look at the Memphis roster shows why the Redbirds may have made the move. Harrison Bader is just one year removed from playing at the University of Florida and is already in Class AAA. He skipped high Class A (Palm Beach) and played just half a season at Springfield (Class AA) helping them win the first half title. He hit 12 home runs there and appears to have a higher ceiling than Tilson.
Also in Memphis is David Washington, who leads the entire Cardinal minor league system in home runs (26). While he strikes out a lot (106 in 74 games), Washington has that corner-position power that the Cards need. At 25 years old he could add a dimension to the future Cardinals outfield that Tilson could not supply.
Time will tell whether holding back Reyes to allow him to mature and trading a potential starter like Tilson were wise moves. But like most everything the Cardinals do, they were deliberate and thoughtful.