clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Future Redbirds Top 25 Prospects for 2015: #17 - Luke Weaver

New, comments

A lot of lists have Weaver nearer the top ten than I do. I guess I have more questions about his ability to get professional hitters out or just the overall depth in the current farm system is good enough that a pitcher of this quality ends up down in the mid teens.

Luke Weaver
Luke Weaver
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired: Draft, 2014, 1st Round (#27); Florida State University

Birthday: 8/21/1993

Age: 21

Minor League Stops in 2014: GCL Cardinals (R), Palm Beach Cardinals (A+)

2014 Totals:

IP

ERA

FIP

K%

BB%

GB%

OFB%

HR/OFB%

9.1 7.71 3.63 26.1% 8.7% 41.4% 20.7% 16.7%


F-R Grades:

(You can find the 20/80 grading primer here)

Fastball

Changeup

Slider

Command

Pitchability

60 55/60 35/55 60 55

In his Top 20 list for the Cardinals organization that went up on Tuesday, John Sickels had this to say about Weaver:

8) Luke Weaver, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, first round pick out of Florida State University, posted 7.71 ERA with 12/4 K/BB in just nine pro innings, kept on short leash after heavy college workload. Great collegiate track record, 88-93 fastball with higher peaks, best pitch is change-up, needs sharper breaking stuff. Cardinals have had good results with pitchers of this profile.

Here's MLB.com's 2014 draft profile of Weaver:

<iframe src='http://mlb.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=31229515?topic_id=6479266&width=400&height=224&property=mlb' width='400' height='224' frameborder='0'>Your browser does not support iframes.</iframe>

I respect John a lot and he's correct: The Cardinals have a very good track record with pitchers of Weaver's profile. Above average fastball, good changeup, good command. The Cardinals tend to look for pitchers who have the latter two most and then hoping to goose velocity by tweaking a pitchers' delivery, usually by delaying hip rotation to create more linear force to the plate.

Weaver's track record in college is excellent: A strikeout an inning his last two seasons in college, less than a hit an inning over that time and a K/BB ratio that's nearly 4:1. Again, the profile of a lot of pitchers who've had success with the Cardinals. If he can maintain some semblance of that performance against the best hitters in the world, he'll be a #1/#2 starter in the big leagues for a long time.

I just question whether he'll be able to do so.

The big issue I have is the complete lack of a breaking ball. Weaver throws a curveball currently and it's terrible -- it's slurvy and slow and hangs up and out of the strike zone most of the time. I see a lot of 50 grades slapped on the pitch and after watching an hour of good video of his starts from last year that's a generous gift of a rating.

I think the reason for the pushed grade is that most scouts have basically given Weaver the benefit of the doubt that he'll eventually migrate to a harder slider in pro ball, but he still has to actually DO it, and while his low 3/4 arm slot will help to turn a hard slider into an effective pitch, I'm in the "show me" camp.

Weaver's changeup is near universally lauded as his best pitch as well as the pitch with the best ceiling. It registers about 10-12 mph below his fastball consistently and is thrown with similar arm speed, but the problem I have is that while it has good sink most of the time, it doesn't really fade all that much. That's what I love about Marco Gonzales' changeup and what I like about Rob Kaminsky's developing changeup: Both fade away from opposite handed hitters, giving them a real weapon to keep hitter's honest about that half of the plate.

I think his best pitch is the fastball, and that it's likely to remain so in his pro career. It's a 60 pitch, probably can't go too much higher unless he moves to the bullpen and can be in the 96-97 range consistently and it's got good life. Again, though, I have an issue here as well: As you'll see in the following video from Baseball America, Weaver likes to work up in the zone a lot with his fastball and I think that will spell trouble for him in the higher levels of the minors and MLB:

<iframe width="1280" height="720" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B5-8nLuKvu8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Notice how late most of the swings are? That's not going to be the case too often in AA and above in the pros given that he only throws 92-93. Weaver is throwing up there on purpose: It makes his sinking changeup more effective, and unless he makes a mistake near the middle third of the plate he's unlikely to get hit too hard. This kind of thing strikes me more as something that works well in the college ranks when you can throw 93-94 by a hitter, but fails to work against professional hitters who have better approach and can catch up to good velocity at the belt and letter areas of the strike zone.

Can he get more downward plane and live in the thighs-to-knees area as a pro?  It's certainly possible and his command should help. Again: Show Me. It's the state motto after all.

Weaver's upside, to me, is limited. He either develops a good slider and becomes a #3 starter or he doesn't and ends up a fastball/change guy out of the bullpen. Consequently, he profiles similar to Zach Petrick, the pitcher behind him on my list, including the funky delivery with the slightly late arm. While Weaver already has an average secondary offering that Petrick doesn't have (and youth on his side), I see them as pretty similar pitchers, despite their pedigree and draft status.

2015 Outlook:

Weaver will start with either Palm Beach or Springfield and is the prototypical "quick mover" through the farm system as he already has two average to average-plus pitches and above average command. With a good hard slider, he could be Dan Haren.  Without, he's a middle reliever, which I think is the mostly likely scenario for him.

This is another player who could jump a full grade with a good 2015 campaign though, so Luke Weaver is someone to keep an eye on in the high minors.

Overall Grade: B-