The St. Louis Cardinals were busy on Tuesday, placing Tyler O’Neill and Mike Mayers on the 10-day IL while optioning Drew Robinson to AAA. The trio of players called up to fill the open roster spots include Yairo Munoz and Giovanny Gallegos, but it is Ryan Helsley I will be focusing on here.
Helsley made my pre-season Cardinals Top 10 list coming in at number ten, thanks in large part to his big fastball and likelihood he would help the Cardinals at the highest level this season. That time has come where he will could fit in to their next available rotation spot this coming Saturday, but that would be nine days after his previous outing in AAA. He has not pitched more than four innings nor has he thrown more than 57 pitches in either of his two outings this season, so him transitioning to a relief role, where I see him long term, may be more immediate.
The fastball can touch triple digits and sit in the upper 90s. He has a good curve that he can have drop into the zone well. He also has a sharp cutter and a change that is behind the other three offerings. The command is very much a concern and a big part of the reason I believe he is best suited for the bullpen. That said, he has a very strong lower half and uses his leg drive well, making it conceivable he could be an innings eating starter at his best.
The arm slot is inconsistent, varying from a high 3/4 all the way down to low 3/4, which is likely a large part of the command struggles, but adds even more deception on a fastball that plays as plus and a pair of breaking balls that are average in a vacuum but can play above average off the fastball and added deception.
Overall, I do see Helsley getting a look in the rotation, but there is upside of a late innings reliever that could make a real impact right away. His last start was 4/11, so he could see a relief appearance Tuesday or Wednesday to take the place of his pen day and still be in line to start this weekend, so coming out of the bullpen in his big league debut does not necessarily mean he won’t get the opportunity to start.