This next St. Louis Cardinals prospect could be the next starting pitching prospect to make his major league debut.
When you look at the system of the St. Louis Cardinals and how the team has drafted over the last few years, one theme is evident. That theme is pitching, and in recent years it has been reliable starters coming from college. Thankfully the team changed that tune and took some players with a little more risk this year in the 2015 draft.
That’s not to say that players like Luke Weaver aren’t good, it is just that they are what they are, reliable and safe players that will eventually develop into that at the major league level. They aren’t your shout at the top of the mountain players like Alex Reyes or Junior Fernandez. But, they will still develop into good big league pitchers, especially with the Cardinals’ ability to develop good pitching.
With that said, let’s get into what sets Luke Weaver apart from the rest of the system.
#4 Luke Weaver SP
Scout Grades: Fastball 50/55 | Curveball 40/50 | Changeup 50/60 | Command 45|50+ | Future Value 50*
Analysis: Weaver is widely thought of as one of the Cardinals’ most advanced pitching prospects. If he were in a different organization, Weaver could easily be pitching in AAA already, and knocking on the major league door. However, the Cardinals do not need Weaver to be blowing through the system at a Michael Wacha/Marco Gonzales pace, so they have let Weaver naturally progress so far.
Weaver features a good fastball and an above average changeup (stop me if you haven’t heard this before), but really needs to develop a consistent breaking pitch before he can be considered much more than a #3-#4 pitcher. What puts Weaver so high is his closeness to the big leagues and his pitchability and experience as he was drafted out of college.
The Red Baron of Viva El Birdos has this to say about Weaver’s lack of an enticing breaking pitch,
there’s still concerns about the breaking ball, although in general Weaver’s switch to a curve at the behest of the club has been mostly positive. Even so, the pitch only flashes average occasionally, and half the time still looks more like a loopy slider.”
This is his biggest need right now, as without an effective breaking pitch he is pretty average. Baron goes on to say that Weaver looks like he may turn into a reliever some day.
Disappointingly, Weaver did not have a very impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League this year. He was primarily used out of the bullpen, making only a couple of starts once Alex Reyes was suspended. All told, Weaver finished the fall with a 3.72 ERA. When I had the chance to see him pitch in the fall league championship game, he looked like a guy who was relying on his fastball too much. He left pitches out over the plate and got hammered for it.
Weaver may be a guy who needs to grow into his frame a little as he stands in at 6’3 170 pounds. For a guy his age you would think he would be a little bigger in the weight department, but as it stands right now, he is smallish. A couple more seasons in the minors bulking up could help him become more consistent and allow for him bring his fastball velocity up a little more.
Weaver’s fastball and change up combo is fairly advanced, but he’s going to need a little more seasoning in the minors. While he did dominate in Class A+ Palm Beach, that was to be expected. This next season will become a bigger test for him, and may be where we see him grow the most.
Weaver is still a top prospect in the system, and the Cardinals are doing the right thing in being patient with Weaver right now. There’s no urgent need to push Weaver up and the Cardinals have one of the best prospects in baseball in Reyes ahead of him on the depth chart and closer to the majors.
Roster Prediction: AA Springfield
This will be a test for Weaver in a more offensive ballpark and league. It will force him to adjust and hopefully refine his breaking pitches some. I like the idea of taking it slow with Weaver, as we are seeing the effects of rushing Wacha and Gonzales.
If you have missed any of our “Top Prospects” series, you can check them out here.
Scout Grades via Fangraphs