Though impressive at times, Weaver still struggled late in the year and lost his rotation spot. What can the Cardinals expect of Luke Weaver in the future?
On August 13, the Cardinals called on Luke Weaver to pitch in place of an injured Michael Wacha, and he pitched four innings allowing two runs, throwing a lot of pitches but not providing enough of a look into what the Cardinals could expect of him. It was more of the same in his second start, lasting five innings while allowing three runs. Weaver never pitched more than six innings, and his struggles at the end of the season left a poor impression on Cardinals fans. However, it is likely that he was just simply not ready to perform at the big league level.
In the past several seasons, Cardinals fans have been spoiled with rookies who immediately perform. Look no further than the man he was replacing in the rotation: Michael Wacha. In limited time during the 2013 season, Wacha looked dominant, pitching the Cardinals into the World Series. But even if you look past that, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness, Aledmys Diaz, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Stephen Piscotty, Alex Reyes, and others all performed immediately after being called up. Cardinals’ fans are not used to having a rookie not yet ready to perform at the big league level. Now, Luke Weaver is constantly proposed as a trade chip.
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When looking at Luke Weaver’s career, we see that he pitched a grand total of six innings in AAA. During his time in AA this season, he went 6-3 with a 1.40 ERA. Impressive numbers. In limited MLB time, that ERA jumped to 5.70. Obviously Cardinals fans do not expect Luke Weaver’s future performance to be that poor, but the lack of confidence in him is astounding.
In 2003, Danny Haren made his debut for the Cardinals after impressing in the Minor Leagues. He was unimpressive that year, and unimpressive in 2004 before the Cardinals traded him. We all know how Haren turned out.
In some ways, Dan Haren and Luke Weaver are similar. Both impressed in college before being drafted early, and both debuted with relatively little Minor League experience. The Cardinals have not tended to trade top prospects, which is exactly what Luke Weaver is, as many times those trades come back to bite.
As a minor-league all-star, player of the month, and top-100 prospect, Luke Weaver has huge upside. His statistics in the minor-leagues his past two years point to him becoming a hugely successful major league pitcher.
After his first couple of starts, Weaver claimed that he was overthinking being in the majors, trying too hard to make the perfect pitch instead of relying on the defense behind him. This caused him to run up the pitch count and go deep into counts.
In his game against Milwaukee, this seemed to change, as he kept a dormant Cardinals’ offense in the game, pitching six one-run innings. After allowing six unearned runs to the Giants the next game, Weaver’s brief surge stalled, and he finished the regular season in the bullpen.
With the returning Lance Lynn next season, Luke Weaver will likely not have much pressure on him to perform in a rotation spot. Hopefully, he will get the chance to grow more in AAA, and progress into the pitcher he looked like in AA. In a couple of years, expect to see Luke Weaver still with the Cardinals, and being a valuable asset in the rotation.
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