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Prospect Update: Luke Weaver

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We will be examining the former 1st round pick’s progression through the minor leagues and assessing how he has contributed to the St. Louis Cardinals in their 2016 playoff hunt. Weaver is the #2 prospect in the Cardinals system and #93 overall according to MLB.com.

 

Former Seminole ace Luke Weaver made his MLB debut on August 23, 2016 and has so far pitched well for the St. Louis Cardinals. Today I will be diving into what he has shown us so far to try to interpret the type of pitcher he is today and his role going forward with the organization.

 

The Scouting Report (courtesy of Baseball America):

 

The 27th overall pick in 2014, Weaver developed into Florida State’s ace as a sophomore. His fastball backed up a bit as a junior, but he still pitched his way into the first round.

A broken wrist shagging balls in spring training set back Weaver’s 2016 season—he didn’t make his first start since June 5—but he’s more than made up for it. After dominating at high Class A last season, he’s done the same at Double-A and Triple-A. In fact, if not for his late start Weaver would be in the middle of the competition for Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award. The 22-year-old righthander was 6-3, 1.40 at Double-A Springfield with 88 strikeouts and 10 walks in 77 innings and his one start at Memphis was a six-inning, two-hit gem.

Weaver’s fastball velocity ticked up this season to 93-94 mph, perhaps because his arm was fresher, and he’s touched as high as 98 mph. His changeup is his best secondary pitch and his newfound cutter has helped him neutralize lefthanded hitters, who batted .310 against him last season, but are hitting just .220 this season. He combines excellent stuff with plus control, as he’s walked just 1.6 batters per nine as a pro.

 

Personal Scouting Report:

 

Weaver is listed at 6-foot-2, 170-pounds and that seems to be spot on for his size and frame. He has a slender build and is athletic on the mound leading him to be adept at fielding his position. Florida State fans will remember his defensive ability as Weaver was named the Rawlings Gold Glove award winner in college in 2014.

Weaver has a long arm circle with an arm action that is pretty loose throughout the back of the throwing motion. His fastball sits in the high 90s and in his first start sat from 92-94 mph with multiple 95 mph and 96 mph fastballs scattered throughout. He throws two kinds of fastballs: a 2-seam fastball with arm side run and a cut fastball as well. The cutter is used less often since it is a fairly new pitch but it adds another element to his repertoire which gives hitters something else to think about.

In terms of delivery he has a slight crossfire element to his landing. Weaver also finishes strong with a stiff front leg and solid lower half usage. Weaver gets downhill well which helps him get a solid angle to his fastball plane. His changeup is an offspeed pitch he uses the most and it flashes plus at times but it is inconsistent. The pitch comes in at the low-mid 80s and has good downward action to it with fade. He replicates the same arm speed on the pitch which helps hide the fact that he’s throwing it. Weaver struggles with his release point at times with the pitch as evidenced below with a changeup that was left middle-in to Addison Russell in his MLB debut.

 

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Russell promptly deposited that pitch out of Wrigley Field.

 

Weaver does have a breaking ball that he throws which comes in around 79-81 mph. The pitch is soft and has some okay depth to it, but it is clearly behind his changeup in terms of effectiveness. One example of the pitch is here below:

 

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Numbers So Far:

1-3 3.21ERA 33.2IP 35H 12ER 10BB 42SO 2.7BB/9 11.5K/9

 

Current and Future Value:

As college baseball fans remember Weaver was known as being one of the more polished pitches in the 2014 MLB Draft and he has done nothing so far to dispute that claim. In his previous starts he attacked with his fastball and worked both corners of the plate, he did so particularly well to his arm side.

Up to this point Weaver has provided quality innings for a team who has had some bad luck with injuries. The Cardinals have already lost Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia for the season and Weaver (along with fellow rookie and Cardinals #1 prospect Alex Reyes) have kept the playoff dream alive for the Cardinals. The rotation currently shakes out with Weaver being no. 4 behind Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, and ahead of the aforementioned Reyes.

As of today’s standings the Cardinals stand one game out of the wild card and have already been eliminated from the division race (thanks of course to the Chicago Cubs). Weaver can expect to start the rest of the way and won’t have to worry about an innings limit because he did miss time with a broken wrist earlier in the year.

If the Cardinals are to make the playoffs AND move past the Wild Card round it is unclear whether Weaver would remain in the rotation. The Cardinals have their top three set in the rotation and if they wanted to go four deep they would probably keep Weaver in the rotation and shift Reyes to the bullpen where he has had success in the past.

Going past this season the Cardinals will have a crowded starting staff. Weaver would probably expect to compete with Reyes and Wacha for the fifth rotation spot in Spring Training next season. Wacha has yet to show an ability to pitch consistently and remain healthy while Reyes is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball although he has suffered some control issues. Weaver should expect to compete in a Spring Training battle next season but may be spending time in the minors as well.

Vinnie Cervino

Lead Baseball Writer, Perpetually Pessimistic Sport Fan, Proprietor of My Own Delusions and Fallacies, 80 Grade Takes. Twitter @cervino_vinnie.



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