St. Louis Cardinals: Luke Weaver might be just what the bullpen needs
Luke Weaver has excelled in his brief time in the majors, showing that he is a major-league-ready talent for the St. Louis Cardinals. He has been used as a starter so far, but he may fit better in the bullpen.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been desperate for a stabilizing force outside of Trevor Rosenthal for the bullpen and Luke Weaver could be the perfect answer for this need.
Weaver has performed well as a starter this season, but there are still some concerns about his long-term ability as a starter. He has shown unquestionably that he has the talent to beat major league hitters, but I have concerns about his longevity as a starter.
All of these issues would be alleviated in my eyes if he were to move to the bullpen, and would remain just as important to the team.
While his pitches are good, he doesn’t have a particularly varied arsenal, mainly relying on mixing up his fastball and change-up. While some may argue that he uses a curveball as well, it is not nearly effective enough to be considered a pitch of impact yet.
According to Brooks Baseball, Weaver is only causing whiffs on 4.72% of his curveballs, while allowing 22.64% of those pitches to be put into play for a .292 BAA.
While it is possible for Weaver to gain more control over that curve to round out an effective 3-pitch arsenal, it is also just as likely that Weaver sticks with what has gotten him this far.
That being said, it is still possible for a 2-pitch pitcher to excel over a long-term period, but many of those pitchers had dangerous velocity on their fastballs. Weaver doesn’t have that, usually topping out in the low 90’s on his heaters.
With the level of skill, athleticism, and scouting technology present in today’s game, it will be much more difficult for Weaver after players have seen him more and more.
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Another concerning aspect with Weaver in regards to his longevity as a starter is his small frame. At 6’2″, 170 pounds, he doesn’t have the type of size where it will be easy for his arm to remain fresh over 150+ innings. Coupled with a high volume of fastballs only makes me more worried about overworking Weaver over the course of a full season.
That is where a move to the bullpen comes in. The St. Louis Cardinals are desperate for a go-to guy in the bullpen who can hit his spots consistently. With the control that Weaver has displayed thus far, he has the potential to be that guy for the Cardinals, which would be invaluable considering the team’s current bullpen situation.
As a reliever, Weaver would be able to fully focus on his fastball and change-up combination, as hitters would not see him nearly as much and would thus not be able to get a rhythm on Weaver’s tendencies in certain situation. This applies to the scouting end as well, as there is not nearly as much material to advise players with.
For a pitcher who relies on control as opposed to velocity or break, these advantages can be significant.
That’s not to say his stuff doesn’t have strikeout potential, which it certainly does. His change-up has an effective dip, causing whiffs almost 19% of the time, which will allow him to have the pressure necessary to challenge hitters in late innings. This combination of traits makes him a strong candidate for a long-term 8th- or even 9th-inning guy.
Next: Weaver auditioning for 2018 rotation spot
Weaver had played well as a starter, and I would have no qualms in keeping him as a starter in 2018. However, if he starts to struggle later on in the season, I think that he would be a better fit as a reliever than a starter.