Amidst a flurry of moves by the Padres’ front office in the days leading up to the 40-man-roster deadline, A.J. Preller needed to make decisions concerning who to protect from entering the Rule 5 Draft. During all of the chaos, previously unknown relief pitcher Gerardo Reyes was added to the roster.
On November 20th, the Padres prepared for the Rule 5 draft boldly and creatively. Colten Brewer was sent to the Red Sox, Rowan Wick was traded to the Cubs, Walker Lockett was banished to Cleveland, and Christian Villanueva was shockingly sold to Japan’s Yomiuri Giants. Each of these moves served a purpose: to protect players on the roster from getting drafted by other teams in the Rule 5 draft. Clearly, A.J. Preller and company had a mission to protect certain players in the system, but very few expected one of those players to be 25-year-old minor league relief pitcher Gerardo Reyes.
An undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, the Texas native was one of the forgotten pieces in the three-team trade between the Padres, Nationals, and Rays which, most notably, saw the Padres acquire Wil Myers in exchange for Trea Turner in 2014.
Since the trade, the 5-foot-11 Reyes has battled through injuries, remaining at High-A Lake Elsinore until last season, where his solid numbers earned him a call-up to Double-A San Antonio. Across both leagues, the crafty right-hander pitched 55.1 innings, while posting a solid 2.77 ERA.
But the question remains, why trade the likes of Lockett, Wick, and Brewer in order to make room for a 25-year-old reliever who has struggled with injuries? The answer to this question lies in Reyes’s deceptive delivery and surprisingly high strikeout potential.
Right-hander Reyes has a funky delivery from a low-three-fourths arm slot, a fastball that can touch 97 mph, a changeup that sits in the high 80’s, and a wipeout slider– all of which combine to be a pretty lethal combination.
Don’t believe me? Here is a video of Reyes dominating Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers:
Credit: Baseball Census
As you can see, Reyes completely fools Rodgers at the plate due to both the deceptiveness of his delivery and the massive bite on his slider. As Reyes flows through his windup, he somewhat resembles the likes of Madison Bumgarner, except the right side, in how his front arm is pointed out toward the first base dugout. The quick, whipping action in his delivery is also indicative of how he is getting every ounce of his 5-foot-11 frame, something that will most likely limit Reyes to the bullpen.
While Reyes will have to keep his walk rate down if he is to have success at the big league level, at-bats such as this, along with Reyes’s 11.2 K/9, most definitely caught the eye of A.J. Preller, so much so that he was willing to trade pieces as an extra precaution in keeping Reyes in the system.
What’s more is that Reyes recently concluded a brief stint in the Mexican Winter League, where he didn’t give up a single earned run over 19 games, managing an impressive 0.89 WHIP.
The stats don’t lie. Keeping Reyes on the roster may end up being a savvy, under-the-radar move for the Padres going into 2019. And it’s no secret that the Padres enjoy having the luxury of a deceptive, right-handed pitcher out of the bullpen. Last season, a relatively unknown right-handed pitcher with a low-three-fourths delivery named Adam Cimber broke camp with the team, having a great rookie season with a 3.17 ERA with 51 K’s over 41 innings for the Padres before he and Brad Hand were sent to Cleveland in exchange for Francisco Mejia.
Additionally, the Padres designated right-handed submarine pitcher Kazuhisa Makita for assignment, clearing a path for another deceptive righty to earn his spot in the Padres’ bullpen in 2019.
While it may be ambitious for Reyes to break camp with the Padres, look for Reyes to begin the year in Triple-A, and if one of the Padres’ more reliable bullpen arms goes down injured, don’t be surprised if the deceptively hard-throwing righty is one of the first names called up.