When Bud Selig called out Luke Weaver's name during the Cardinals' first-round selection of the 2014 MLB Draft, many people were extremely disappointed. I wasn't thrilled with the pick, but with the way that the Cardinals had gotten Michael Wacha through the system in 2013 and Marco Gonzales set to do the same thing that year, I was pretty optimistic with Luke Weaver's future.
After appearing in four games and not allowing a run in GCL, the Cardinals assigned him to Palm Beach, and in his two starts, he allowed eight runs, and his opponents hit .550 against him. In 2015, the Cardinals placed him in High-A again to start the year.
This time, he was overshadowed by prospects with likely brighter futures in baseball, Alex Reyes and Rob Kaminsky. The trio of pitchers each dominated until midseason, when they all went their separate ways. Kaminsky was shipped to Cleveland in exchange for former All-Star Brandon Moss, Reyes made the jump to Double-A and continued to perform well, and Luke Weaver stayed put at Palm Beach, where he finished the year at age 22.
Reyes continued a path that is likely to be followed by all of the high school and international prospects coming through the Cardinals system, starting in GCL, then jumping to Peoria, then going Palm Beach-Springfield midseason. College pitchers like Weaver are placed at higher levels immediately.
The decision to keep Weaver in Palm Beach all year is confusing to me, especially considering the results he produced, going 8-5 with a 1.62 ERA. He did strike out only 88 in 105.1 innings, but the other statistics do not lie. What these numbers are saying is this: Luke Weaver is ready for Double-A. Put him there!
The likeliest explanation for this is that there was simply no room for Weaver in Springfield. I think we probably could have found a way to get him there, but maybe other players were taking priority for some reason.
After letting Weaver rotting for a year performing at a level that he was far too advanced for, the Cardinals selected him as one of their prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League. Weaver's results there will likely indicate what kind of player he actually is going to be at the upper levels. Sure, I'd love it if he just dominated, but since some of the top bats in the minors will be checking in, I do not see that happening.
Of course, if Weaver makes it to the MLB at age 25 and becomes a spot starter, that will be fine by me. Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty are both rising through the system, and they both have higher ceilings than Weaver, by far. Originally, this post was supposed to be detailing Flaherty's performance in Peoria compared to that of Reyes and Kaminsky, but I decided that a Cardinal pitcher set to be a future star is nothing original.
But just because Weaver isn't going to get to the majors before he's 24 like Wacha and Martinez did and Flaherty and Reyes are set to do does not mean that Weaver may not have a successful career in the bigs. Former #1 overall pick Mark Appel isn't going to get there until next year, and he'll be going on 25 by then.
Every prospect isn't going to be Michael Wacha. Luke Weaver was less talented from the get-go, and he'll always be less talented. Every prospect isn't going to be in the five-man rotation. Those spots are reserved for the elite, like Alex Reyes and probably Flaherty, too.
Whether or not Weaver is one of the elite will be decided this fall.