Luke Weaver is scheduled to start on Saturday. If he continues to pitch at his current level, his start should give Cardinals fans everywhere reason for excitement.
Most of the time, pitching prospects lack polish. They either have the body, the disgusting stuff, or the control; rarely does a young pitcher have it all together. Usually, they need time to develop, time to become acquainted with the unforgiving nature of professional hitters. Even so, most prospects are forced to learn on the fly, being thrown into the MLB prior to maximum maturity.
To put it another way, the development of starting pitching is tough. Only pitching every 5 days, pitchers don’t have the luxury of learning from live, competitive repetitions on a daily basis. Instead, scouts and executives must strategically pick the right time for a Major League promotion, maximizing youthful talent while minimizing immaturity. If such a decision is made poorly, a team can waste franchise talents in an instant.
With Luke Weaver, the Cardinals should have no worries regarding the timing of his call-up. He is ready. Even against the Cubs, we should experience a truly impressive performance.
Despite being drafted only 2 years ago (27th overall in 2014), Weaver is poised to make a name for himself in the later portion of the 2016 MLB season. With a lanky, 6’2″, 170 pound frame, Weaver doesn’t look like your typical pitching phenom. Compared to Alex Reyes, a big, powerful pitcher with a nasty breaking ball, Weaver simply doesn’t stack up. In his own way, however, Weaver may be the most MLB ready prospect in the organization. At only 22 years of age, that is truly impressive.
Regarding Weaver’s preparedness to pitch at the Major League level, his performance thus far tells the story. Specifically, he has torn through the minor league ranks, posting a minuscule 1.30 ERA during his 2016 campaign. Perhaps most notably, Weaver controls the strike zone better than most all prospects, posting an impressive 92/12 K/BB ratio. Furthermore, Weaver has demonstrated an ability to adjust to his opponents, greatly improving his performance against left-handed hitters in 2016. After learning a cutter prior to this season, left-handed opponents’ average dropped from .310 to .220.
— MiLB.com (@MiLB) August 9, 2016
So, you’re probably wondering, what can we expect from Weaver this Saturday? In my opinion, we should see an impressive debut. Weaver has showed maturity in his previous promotions; for example, in his recent AAA start, he pitched 6 innings, yielding no runs. While the MLB and AAA are barely comparable in terms of difficulty, it is encouraging that Weaver isn’t bothered by enhanced competition.
Overall, expect Weaver to throw strikes, using primarily his change-up and cutter to get ground-ball outs. While his velocity has actually improved this year, I seriously doubt he will overpower any batter he faces. Especially against an offense like Chicago’s, Weaver will try to keep it simple, locating precisely to keep his defense active and his pitch count low. On the biggest stage for any Cardinals pitcher, I expect Weaver to have a special night. He may be 22 years old, but he sure doesn’t pitch like one.