The Reyes Road Ahead

The Tommy John Challenge

Alex Reyes is a fantastic young pitcher ... and an amazing story. He actually grew up in New Jersey; he pitched at Elizabeth High School. He was not a prospect. His fastball did not approach 90 mph. And so in an effort to be noticed by scouts, he moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 16, lived with his grandparents.

And at that exact moment, he hit a growth spurt -- grew four or five inches, gained 30 of 40 pounds, and his fastball leaped into the low 90s, then the mid-90s, then the high 90s.

The Cardinals managed to sign him off of what they saw at a workout.

He almost immediately became one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.

You might have seen Reyes last year, dominating in his short period in the Major Leagues. He showed enough to be a leading Rookie of the Year candidate this year. At age 22, his future seemed unlimited.

And, as you know, Wednesday he found out that he will need Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the year and, well, however much longer it takes to recover.

My first reaction to this was: "Oh, that's sad, but he's young, he will be fine." This is how I -- and most people I know -- have come to think of Tommy John surgery. It is serious, of course, but there's a feeling that pitchers will come back from it stronger than ever.

And then ... I began looking at the recent history of pitchers who had Tommy John surgery. And I found something peculiar: With only a handful of exceptions, pitchers DO NOT come back from it stronger than ever. Many do not come back from it at all. And if you look at the best starting pitchers in the game -- Kershaw, Scherzer, Kluber, King Felix, Bumgarner, Arrieta, Lester, Verlander, Greinke, etc. -- they almost all have one thing in common.

THEY DID NOT HAVE TOMMY JOHN SURGERY.

So, over at MLB, I wrote a little bit about Tommy John surgery and the rough but not insurmountable road ahead for Alex Reyes.