RYAN HELSLEY
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Nickname:   N/A Position:   RHP
Home: N/A Team:   CARDINALS
Height: 6' 1" Bats:   R
Weight: 195 Throws:   R
DOB: 7/18/1994 Agent: N/A
Uniform #: 56  
Birth City: Tahlequah, OK
Draft: Cardinals #5 - 2015 - Out of Northeastern State Univ. (OK)
YR LEA TEAM SAL(K) G IP H SO BB GS CG SHO SV W L OBA ERA
2015 APP JOHNSON CITY   11 40.1 33 35 19 9 0 0 0 1 1   2.01
2016 MWL PEORIA   17 95 77 109 19 17 0 0 0 10 2   1.61
2017 PCL MEMPHIS   1 5 7 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 0   3.60
2017 TL SPRINGFIELD   6 33.2 25 41 15 6 0 0 0 3 1   2.67
2017 FSL PALM BEACH   17 93.2 72 91 30 16 1 1 0 8 2   2.69
2018 GCL GULF COAST   1 2.2 1 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0   0.00
2018 PCL MEMPHIS   5 26.2 18 34 9 5 0 0 0 2 1   3.71
2018 TL SPRINGFIELD   7 41 30 44 20 7 1 0 0 3 2   4.39
2019 PCL MEMPHIS   17 37.1 29 41 20 7 0 0 1 2 3   4.58
2019 NL CARDINALS   24 36.2 34 32 12 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.245 2.95
2020 NL CARDINALS $211.00 12 12 8 10 8 0 0 0 1 1 1 0.186 5.25
2021 NL CARDINALS   51 47 40 47 27 0 0 0 1 6 4 0.227 4.56
2022 NL CARDINALS   1 1 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.25 36.00
2023 IL MEMPHIS   1 0.1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0   0.00
2023 TL SPRINGFIELD   4 4 7 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0   9.00
2023 NL CARDINALS   33 36.2 22 52 17 0 0 0 14 3 4 0.176 2.45
2024 NL CARDINALS   32 32 25 36 12 0 0 0 24 2 3 0.214 2.53
Personal
  • Ryan grew up in the Cherokee Nation capital of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Part of life is developing bilingual abilities in both English and Cherokee. Helsley's grandparents speak their ancestral language fluently. Ryan says he mostly knows basic vocabulary ("colors, foods, animals, how to count").

    In his early years in the minors, Ryan spent part of his offseasons volunteering at a local elementary school, helping to teach the language to young children in Cherokee immersion classes
    .

    As a child, he often made the six-hour drive with his family to Busch Stadium to watch the Cardinals.

    During the 2022 season, Ryan's brother Kyle brought along his daughter. She wore a red shirt with Helsleys' name and number 56 on the back. The text, though, was in Cherokee, designed by Helsley's mom and some family friends. (Jeff Jones - Belleville News-Democrat - Aug 2022)

  • Helsley graduated from Tahlequah Sequoyah High School in Oklahoma. There, he was a three-sport star, then accepted a baseball scholarship to Division II Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. He posted a 3.5 GPA in health and human performance.

  • In 2015, Ryan posted a 3.53 ERA and struck out 95 in 63.2 innings for Northeastern State.

  • June 2015: The Cardinals chose him in the 5th round. And he signed for a bonus of $225,000, considerably under the slot value of $316,500, via scout Aaron Looper.

    "It's the greatest feeling I’ve had in life so far,” said Helsley, who grew up a Cardinals fan.

    Helsley, who grew up in Tahlequah, became the first NSU player to be drafted in the first five rounds. 

  • Helsley has a twin brother.

  • Ryan works hard and has a strong work ethic.

  • In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Helsley as the 8th-best prospect in the Cardinals' organization.

    Ryan was at #4 during the off-season before 2020 spring training.

  • 2022 All-Star Game: Helsley, who came into the All-Star Game with the lowest ERA (0.69) and the lowest batting average against (.109) in MLB, threw 8 of his 17 pitches at 100 mph or harder, including two at 103 mph. He struck out Ty France and Andrew Benintendi and allowed one hit in one inning pitched.

  • Aug 19-22, 2022: Helsley and wife, Alex, welcomed the birth of daughter Eliana on Friday in Oklahoma, Helsley’s home state. 

  • Aug 19-26, 2022: After spending three days on the paternity list, Helsley was transferred to the restricted list when he stayed with his wife, Alex. Some additional tests were being run on their newborn, Eliana. In addition to watching the Cardinals win three of five games against the Cubs, Helsley said he kept up his throwing routine at Northeastern State University, near his hometown of Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

    “That’s one of the best experiences that I’ve ever felt, and it’s been so fun so far,” said Helsley, who is 7-1 with 12 saves and an 0.91 ERA this season. “I watched every game, and me, the wife and baby were watching it all. “It was nothing like a feeling I’ve ever felt before. It was just pure joy getting to see her little face for the first time and experience it with my wife. It was pure joy.”

  • Sept. 2022: Helsley chose to play for team USA in the 2023 WBC.

  • May 3, 2024: Ryan Helsley, STL, NL Reliever of the Month

    Helsley missed about half of the 2023 season with a right forearm strain, but he's gotten right back at it in 2024
    . The 29-year-old put in a lot of work for the Cards in April — his 16 appearances were tied for the most in baseball, as were his 10 saves. Those were accompanied by a sparkling 1.69 ERA and 9.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio (19 strikeouts, 2 walks). He also returned with his characteristic high-octane fastball, which has averaged 99.3 mph this season. (SS Chepuru - MLB.com - May 3, 2024)

    TRANSACTIONS

  • June 2015: The Cardinals chose him in the 5th round. And he signed for a bonus of $225,000, considerably under the slot value of $316,500, via scout Aaron Looper.

  • Feb 17, 2023:  Helsley lost his case against the Cardinals, meaning he will make $2.15 million in 2023 instead of the $3 million he sought.

  • Jan 11, 2024: The Cards signed Ryan to a one-year agreement avoiding arbitration. The deal is worth $3.8 million.
Pitching
  • Helsley has true heat, with a 95-101 mph FASTBALL with elite spin for lots of swings and misses with its good life. It garners a 70 grade. He is working on an 80-81 mph power CURVEBALL with hard, late drop, that gets some swings and misses and helps him retire righthanded hitters; it has a 50 grade.

    He also added an 87-89 mph CUTTER with short, late movement that he can land for a strike or as a chase pitch in the dirt. He already has late fade on his plus 84-86 mph CHANGEUP for a 45 grade. He throws it to both left and righthanded batters, but has pretty much dropped it coming out of the bullpen.

    Helsley's ball, from the perspective of a hitter, seems to "ride." It gives the optical illusion of rising as it approaches the plate.

  • Ryan aggressively throws strikes. But he struggles to harness his power at times, with inconsistent command and 40 grade control. (Spring 2020)

  • 2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 56% of the time, his Change 2.7%; Slider 33%; and Curve 8.4% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 98 mph, Change 87.9, Slider 89, and Curve 81 mph. 

    2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 44.3% of the time, his Change 3.7%; Slider 36.5%; and Curve 15.5% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 97.2 mph, Change 89.8, Slider 87.6, and Curve 81.1 mph.

    2022 Season Pitch Usage/Avg. Velo: Fastball 56.7% - 99.7 mph; Slider 31.8% - 89.2 mph; Curve 10.7% - 81 mph.

  • The ball comes out of Ryan's hand so very easily. Patient enough to draw walks, he can both bunt and move runners as well, while showing improved power.

  • In 2017, Ryan's manager was Dann Bilardello, the skipper for Palm Beach in the Florida State League. Bilardello valued Helsley's ability to pitch deep into games. "Ryan holds his composure really well, and he holds his velocity really well throughout the game, too," Bilardello said "As strong as he is in the first inning, that is how he will be in the sixth and seventh."

  • Helsley is strong and athletic in his 6-foot-1 frame with thick legs built to last. Like many power pitchers, his fastball command can get erratic at times, and his walk rate has increased every level he has climbed. Helsley has the arsenal to start, but late-inning relief would be an easy transition if his fastball command stalls. (Spring, 2018)

  • Aug 16, 2019: Helsley’s effectiveness is largely due to the emergence of his off-speed pitches. He’s been able to mix in his cutter, changeup and curveball with his fastball—which hovers around 97 mph—to keep hitters off-balance. He threw 10 fastballs and 10 cutters, along with three curveballs, which is by far the most balanced pitch selection he’s had this season. He relied more on his fastball earlier in the year, but while he’s gone back and forth from the Cardinals and Triple-A Memphis, he’s worked on his breaking ball, in order to incorporate it more in his outings.

    “I didn’t have a feel for my off-speed, mostly the curveball and changeup, earlier this season,” Helsley said. “When I was down in Memphis, I put an emphasis on working on my off-speed, trying to get those down, so it could help elevate my fastball. I’m trying to keep it down in the zone, mix it up, mess with their timing. Strike one always helps, and when I do that, I feel like I have more success.”

    Keeping hitters off-balance, along with the way that the ball comes out of Helsley’s hand, leads to an uncomfortable at-bat for opponents, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.

    “You look and you see if guys are seeing the balls well and getting off their good swings,” Shildt said. “You don’t see that a lot with Helsley. You see guys that aren’t picking up the baseball or getting their best swing off. He’s got control of the zone. Last night he had good command. He’s got a good live ball that comes out and a good, late breaking ball. Guys just don’t pick it up well.”

    As Helsley showcases his mix of pitches, he’s become less of a thrower and more of a pitcher. He uses his fastball to get ahead in the count, his breaking ball to keep the hitter off-balance and his fastball again to finish the at-bat off. (A Rogers - MLB.com - Aug 16, 2019)

  • Feb 24, 2020: “Valuable guy,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. “A guy that’s historically been able to hold his velocity in a Minor League setting as he goes deeper into games. But clearly he is able to have high velocity with plus secondary pitches in the short outings as well. That’s really what we’re looking for in the modern game. The guys that can have versatility to compete and get outs.”

    Helsley worked this offseason to reintroduce his curveball to his mix of pitches. It was a pitch that he threw as a starter in the Minors, but he focused more on his fastball and his cutter during his relief outings last year. He can also hit 100 mph with his fastball, making him perhaps the hardest active Cards pitcher. That velocity is what makes him intriguing as a closer, but his mix of pitches and ability to sustain his velocity makes him intriguing as a starter.

    “I think having that curveball, if I’m going to start—even out of the bullpen—if I can get a feel for it and keep a feel for it throughout the season, I think it’ll be huge for me,” Helsley said. (A Rogers - MLB.com - Feb 24, 2020)

  • 2020 Season stats: 

    1-1, 1 SV, 5.25 ERA, 12 G, 12 IP, 8 H, 3 HR, 8 BB, 10 K

    7.02 FIP, 1.333 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, -0.3 bWAR

    Overview: What exactly do the Cardinals have with Ryan Helsley? Obviously, he’s got a powerful arm. His power isn’t very deceptive, though. Both last year and this year his FIP was significantly higher than his ERA, which tells me he’s gotten a bit lucky at times. He had almost a 1:1 K/BB ratio this year, which is never a good sign, after being much better in that department the previous year.

    Helsley may have finally gotten his feet under him down the stretch, as his last five outings before the postseason saw him throw 4.2 scoreless innings, notching his lone save in that time span as well. Perhaps you could give him some leniency for the rough patch he had in September when he returned from the COVID IL, given that he had actual symptoms from the virus and was out of action for the entire month of August. He still needs to work on his command (four walks, six strikeouts in that stretch) and figure out a better way to put batters away.

    There’s really nothing you can take out of the splits from a season like the one the Cardinals just went through, but at least it is interesting to note that Helsley, probably befitting his starter heritage, had similar results against lefties and righties. If he can do the tinkering that needs to do, there’s no particular reason to think he should be a limited weapon, but indeed can be unleashed against anyone.

    Outlook: There was a push among some fans to have Helsley be a starter in the Majors just like he had been in the minors. It’s possible, like Gomber, he’d flourish with a more set routine, but I’m afraid that ship has sailed with Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon both pushing well ahead of him on that quasi-reliever/starter role. It feels more likely that, if he’s able to harness his potential, we’ll see Helsley at the back end of games, perhaps setting up Jordan Hicks.

    Mike Shildt occasionally used Helsley in a similar role this past season (with various levels of success) and it feels like the organization would really like to see him settle into the seventh and eighth on a consistent basis. (Cardinal70 - Nov. 13, 2020)

  • 2023 Nastiest pitch on the Cardinals - Ryan Helsley's four-seamer:

    Helsley's breakout year as the Cardinals' closer came on the back of a truly overpowering fastball. It was one of the hardest four-seamers in the league, averaging 99.6 mph, with elite spin (2,643 rpm) and rise (only one fastball dropped less on its way to the plate).  (D Adler - MLB.com - Feb 6, 2023)

  • 2023 Season: Despite missing three months due to a mid-June right forearm strain, Ryan Helsley remained one of the better closing options in the fantasy landscape during the 2023 campaign, converting 14 of 19 save opportunities to go along with a 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 52/17 K/BB ratio across 36 2/3 innings (33 appearances).

    While he wasn’t as dominant as last year’s breakthrough season, the hard-throwing stopper will likely remain a top-15 closing option for fantasy managers heading into next spring
    . (George Bissell - Oct 9, 2023)
Career Injury Report
  • June 10, 2018: Helsley was on the DL with shoulder fatigue.

  • June 13-July 20, 2019: Helsley will head to the injured list with right shoulder impingement after exiting a 9-0 loss to the Marlins at Marlins Park. Helsley, St. Louis' ninth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, will travel with the team to New York, where he will be seen by Dr. George Paletta.

    Following a 94.4 mph cutter in the sixth inning, Helsley got back into the stretch before catcher Yadier Molina stood up and athletic trainer Adam Olsen visited the mound. Helsley did not throw a warmup pitch before leaving the field.

    "We saw it, Yadi saw it. So we went out and checked on him," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "He said he was barking a little bit, so we got him out of there."

  • Aug 15-Sept 1, 2020: Ryan was on the IL.

  • Aug 17, 2021: Ryan was on the IL with right elbow stress reaction.

  • Oct 4, 2022: Scheduled to pitch one inning and then rest until the start of the postseason on Friday, Helsley jammed the middle finger on his right hand following his fifth pitch against the Pirates. He was removed as a precautionary measure.

  • Oct 7, 2022: After recording the final two outs of the eighth inning, Helsley exited with one out in the top of the ninth of the Cardinals' 6-3 loss to the Phillies in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series.

    Per manager Oliver Marmol, Helsley, who had jammed his right middle finger while steadying himself after catching a comebacker on Oct 4, had started to lose a little bit of feel for his pitches
    . As a result, the team sent Helsley for imaging on that finger to see whether there is anything structurally wrong.

  • June 10-Sept 1, 2023: Ryan was on the IL with right forearm strain.