After returning from injury, it would have been reasonable to expect a little rust from former first round pick Luke Weaver. In reality, though, Weaver has been lights out since his return on June 5th.
Prior the 2016 season, both fans and administration were excited about the talent and depth of the Cardinals pitching prospects. Across all levels, scouts had nothing but positive comments regarding the immense talents of Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Marco Gonzales, and Luke Weaver.
Despite such depth, though, the Cardinals started the season without three of the above prospects. Aside from Flaherty, the other three pitchers began 2016 stuck in the dugout. Even with Flaherty, poor performance overshadowed the upside and optimism that is usually included in his scouting report.
Luckily, the MLB season, both in the majors and minors, is a long one. Other than Gonzales, who underwent Tommy John surgery, all three pitchers are active and progressing, giving the organization hope for the future. Of the three, Luke Weaver was the last to make his 2016 debut, after fracturing his left wrist. Despite his late entrance, though, he has wasted no time.
Once a first round pick out of Florida State University, the Cardinals have always spoken highly of Weaver. Boasting a lanky lanky, athletic body, Weaver thrived at FSU, pounding the zone with consistency. In 2015, Weaver’s first full professional season, he continued improving, posting an impressive 1.62 ERA in 19 starts. Moving into 2016, the organization was beyond excited to monitor the continued development of Weaver against heightened Double A competition.
After a delayed start to his 2016 campaign, Weaver has lived up to all expectations, perhaps even surpassing them. Specifically, Weaver has started 7 games, posting a 4-1 record with a minuscule .83 ERA. Most notably, in his June 5th debut, Weaver went 7 1/3 innings, allowing zero runs and fanning 10 batters. Where most pitchers would have showed at least a little bit of rust, Weaver showed polish and poise.
For his extraordinary June return, Weaver was named Texas League pitcher of the month, along with St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month. During his red-hot June, Weaver was not only successful in terms of ERA, but he was efficient. To be precise, Weaver struck out 37 batters in his first month back, while walking only 3. After a large stint of inactivity, such precision is extremely impressive.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 5, 2016
While the Cardinals had reason for concern regarding injury and suspension early in the season, such is barely the case at the All-Star Break. Both Weaver and Flaherty are thriving after slow starts (for different reasons), and Alex Reyes is still heralded as a top prospect in all of baseball.
For a team that struggled on the bump in the first half of the 2016 season, help is certainly on the way. Both Weaver and Reyes could push for innings in the second half of the year. If not this year, however, expect to see fresh faces in the starting rotation in the following two years. If the improvement of Weaver continues at such a rapid pace, the Cardinals should have very few rotational worries as the organization moves forward.