Lancaster, California —— Popular blogger Connor Farrell has a beloved yearly tradition going where, prior to the start of spring training, he compiles the annual “My Dude” nomination list: a series of unknown fringe prospects in the Colorado Rockies‘ organization that aren’t top 30 but may still have some future value. Colloquially you want your “My Dude” pick to be a guy who can pop up casually in a conversation about prospects: “oh, Sam Hilliard? Yeah, that’s my dude.” Of course, the trick of Connor’s “My Dude” selection is to choose the right guy. Your dude can’t be an obvious prospect (picking Brendan Rodgers is too easy), and yet your dude also must be good enough to actually put together a dude-worthy season.
I think of the “My Dude” competition more than I’d like to admit as I watch a few thousand minor leaguers each year, and every now and then a surprisingly good ballplayer who isn’t anywhere near a top-30 prospect list or national attention pops up for me. So today is as good as any to introduce you to a prime “My Dude” candidate flying under the radar right now: San Diego Padres right-handed reliever Gerardo Reyes, pitching this summer with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm.
Reyes, a Mexican-born 24-year-old originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Galveston (TX) College by the Tampa Bay Rays, is 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in 26 relief appearances in 2017, throwing 36.2 innings while striking out 34 batters against 17 walks and 29 hits. Listed at just 5’11” (which is probably generous) and 160 pounds (which is certainly generous), Reyes relies on a funky, unique delivery and some serious deception from his winding sidearm release point to miss bats. Fascinatingly, though, his fastball routinely works in the mid-90s, touching as high as 97 mph in my viewings this season.
Down below I’ll expand on why Gerardo Reyes is a prime “My Dude” candidate, but first, see for yourself what the San Diego Padres have in their High-A bullpen right now with our video series on the reliever.
Gerardo Reyes, RHP, San Diego Padres — In-Game Video
Our first video comes from Gerardo Reyes’ relief outing on April 18, 2017 against the Inland Empire 66ers (Los Angeles Angels). It’ll give you a pretty good idea of Reyes’ pitch life and difficulty for hitters to square up, specifically with his big, sweeping slider against righties:
Here’s another good behind-the-plate look at Gerardo Reyes, from June 12, 2017 against the Lancaster JetHawks (Colorado Rockies). In this game, he sat between 93-96 mph and touched 97 mph with a hard-running fastball out of that sidearm slot:
In a breakout clip from that Lancaster video, here is Gerardo Reyes facing off against the aforementioned Brendan Rodgers, and whiffing the Rockies’ top prospect on four pitches—all sliders:
And finally, to get a better sense of his pacing and physicality, here are open- and closed-side looks at Gerardo Reyes from each base line for a deeper look at his unique pitching mechanics:
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What do the San Diego Padres have in Gerardo Reyes?
So what makes Gerardo Reyes a “My Dude” candidate, anyways? Well, for one, the gun slinger mechanics and straight sidearm release don’t typically occur in a guy who sits in the mid-90s—and especially when that guy is maybe 160 pounds. There’s some projection here if Reyes can fill out and build a modest amount more lower-body strength. He can get too side-to-side in his delivery and fall hard to first base rather than expending energy towards the plate, but a stronger lower half may help direct more consistent energy—and thus, velocity—straight to the catcher. With lower half power added to his exceptional arm speed and pitch action, he’d be absolutely filthy were he consistently in the upper-90s. He’s not far off that now, and could conceivably grow into it with some bulk over time.
Reyes couples the mid-90s fastball with an 87-89 mph changeup that shows some decent hump to it at times, and the big, sweeping wipeout slider you saw above in the Rodgers at-bat that sits 76-81 mph. There is some danger with the slider—it’ll flatten out and stay on one plane to the point where it sweeps across with little depth—but when Reyes releases it right, the pitch has good late, vertical break that makes it a legitimate strikeout threat. Better still, Reyes clearly (a) likes to throw it, and (b) has enough feel for it as both a get-over and put-away pitch, tunneling it to multiple places on and off the plate with relative consistency.
There are plenty of things that are keeping Gerardo Reyes off the radar; he’s old for this level at 24, he’s way undersized for most realistic projections at high-leverage relief down the line, and he’s maddeningly inconsistent at times despite having such good, raw stuff. Furthermore, his mechanics and release point can get out of whack fairly easily, as you might expect. That tends to affect his command more so than his control; on occasion, he’ll leave too many pitches belt-high over the plate, where his nasty, lively stuff is liable to flatten out. Improved consistency in mechanics should help correct some of that.
As is the case with everyone in High-A, significant further refinement is necessary for the San Diego Padres to potentially ever glean some big league value out of Gerardo Reyes, but he has a few very important things working in his favor already: natural arm strength, free and easy arm action from a funky angle, and serious deception, especially to right-handed hitters. And so Gerardo Reyes makes for a perfect “My Dude” selection, being far away from the San Diego Padres top 30 prospects list thanks to their organizational depth.
As is the case with every “dude,” it’s a long shot that undersized Gerardo Reyes will ever make the big leagues, and he’s liable to flame out in Double-A or Triple-A just as quickly as you’re reading this. But he does have some serious chops on the mound with raw arm strength and funky mechanics to make up for his diminutive figure, and he may just have enough quirky deception to sneak his way into some big league service time with the San Diego Padres over the next few years.