by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After missing time early on this season due to a back injury, the Cardinals’ Luke Weaver has quickly made his presence felt (in three starts since returning he’s allowed 1 ER on 13 H and 1 BB, striking out 18, over 20.0 IP). While the Cardinals’ rotation has been among the best in the game (they entered play on Monday with the second best ERA, at 3.42), sooner or later they are going to need an extra arm. Could Weaver be ready to step into a role?
His time in the Majors last season was less than impressive, with a 5.70 ERA and 1.60 WHIP over 36.1 IP. It’s easy to point towards poor luck as the reason for his struggles (.386 BABIP, 61.8% strand rate), but that wasn’t the only issue:
- Line Drive Rate – 36.6%
- Home Runs – 1.73 HR/9
Home runs are one of the biggest concerns he faces, with a minor league career 0.94 GO/AO. Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 added a little bit more fuel to the fire prior to the season, as he said:
“Additionally, his lack of plane on his pitches is also a red flag. I think he’ll be homer prone”
As if the numbers aren’t enough of a concern, his size brings questions as to whether or not he can hold up to a full workload. As we stated, when we ranked him as the Cardinals #3 prospect prior to the season:
“Listed at 6’2” and 170 lbs. there is room for him to continue to grow and mature, though at 22-years old it’s fair to wonder if he will fill out. He’ll need to if he wants to maintain his strikeout rate (9.8% SwStr% in the Majors, 91.9 mph on his fastball)”
Control is a great asset (career 1.5 BB/9), but these are two significant questions that can’t be overlooked. You also have to wonder how his strikeout rate will play up against more advanced pitching, as his repertoire is limited. Wilson described it as saying:
“Despite his rather thin frame, Weaver has a solid two pitch mix that consists of a fastball that sits 92 to 93 MPH and a plus change-up that can keeps both arm and glove-side batters off balance. His curve ball is still very much a work-in-progress and he rarely throws it.”
In other words the questions seem to far outweigh the rewards, both long and short-term. It’s easy to imagine him struggling once again upon reaching the Majors, and it’s possible that he ends up converting into a high-pressure relief role due to his limited repertoire. While he’d still hold value, it’s something to keep in mind.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Prospect 361
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: