I was recently allowed to ask Atlanta Braves RHP prospect, Patrick Weigel, a few questions. The rising star was drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 draft (thank you Brian Bridges) and has become one of the top upcoming pitchers for this organization. So far this year, the righty out of Houston has put up a 1.72 ERA with the Mississippi Braves and a 3.38 ERA with the Gwinnett Stripers.
Currently, in Gwinnett, the 6’6” California product has generated 27 strikeouts throughout his 34.2 innings pitched. Weigel has battled back from Tommy John Surgery, making light work of the minor leagues again while expressing no signs of any lingering elbow issues. The adversity shown by the 24-year-old is impeccable, and his willingness and determination to succeed at every level of baseball will get him places in this league. It won’t be long (maybe as early as this year) that Weigel is gracing the mound at SunTrust park.
Chase Pittman: As one of the best pitching prospects in the Atlanta Braves’ farm system you
clearly didn’t get there by chance. You’ve been working very hard to achieve this
goal. Has this always been your dream? When was the first time you realized that playing
baseball is something you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
Patrick Weigel: Baseball has always been my first love as a kid. Some of my best memories are
going to the fields by my house with my dad to take ground balls, hit BP, and early on, even toss a
few bullpens where he taught me how to pitch. I feel like being a professional baseball player is
every kids’ dream, and I was no different. I knew, probably in middle school, that I could
play college ball at some level just based on how I was doing against the competition in my area
and various travel tournaments. But I’d say my senior year of high school was the first time I felt
I could have a chance to potentially play pro baseball. I was a late bloomer of sorts
and until my senior year, hadn’t cracked 90 mph on the radar gun. My senior year I had a
velocity jump into the low to mid 90’s; then I’d say I knew I had a chance to do
something in baseball and possibly have a chance at a career.
Chase Pittman: I was able to sit down with the Braves former head scout Brian Bridges a few
weeks ago, and he spoke very highly of you and your work ethic. He said that you’ve had to
work twice as hard as everyone else and when you walk under the “golden arches” of a major
league clubhouse that you’ve truly earned it. What do you have to say about your work ethic,
especially in regards to battling back from Tommy John Surgery? Has battling through this
adversity made you a better pitcher?
Patrick Weigel: First off, I want to say thanks to Brian for the kind words. I have nothing but
great things to say about him, and I hope he’s doing well out in SF. As far as work ethic, it’s
always something I’ve taken pride in, though, I’ve had some tough times with it.
Going through this process post-surgery has really shown me kind of who I am. They say in times of adversity, your true self or your true colors really show. And to be honest – looking back after the surgery – I didn’t handle it very well. I did everything physically that I was supposed to be doing, but to
me, that’s the minimum. I was just checking the boxes and moving on to the next one, but I couldn’t
honestly say I was giving full intent or full mindfulness to what I was doing. Looking back, I just
wasn’t prepared for the situation handed to me and mentally I really didn’t handle it all that
well for a while. But I say all of that to say this: because of that and what I went through in the
rehab process, I do believe that I’ve come out the other side a mentally stronger person. It
made me realize some weak points I may have had and work to correct and overcome those.
So, I think not only has it made me a better pitcher, but I think more importantly it made me
grow as a person.
Chase Pittman: Due to this surgery, the Braves coaches have been taking it slow with your
recovery, making sure to keep your arm safe. Do you feel you are ready for more innings and
for these limitations to be removed?
Patrick Weigel: It has been a very slow process, but I’m happy we’re doing it this way. The
Braves medical staff, front office, and I have been on the same page throughout and there has
always been a plan in place. Every new pitch count I get to is another milestone for me on my
way back. It’s been a fun and interesting year for me getting back into game situations and
competing, combined with figuring out mechanically where I’m at and where I may be lagging
behind still. It’s all a learning process. But ultimately, I’m just so happy to be competing again
and back in my element no matter how many pitches or innings I get.
Chase Pittman: The Atlanta Braves believed in your potential but weren’t the first team to draft
you. The Milwaukee Brewers selected you in the 22nd round of the 2014 season, yet you chose
not to sign but instead decided to play at the University of Houston. What led you to make
this decision? What did it feel like when that decision paid off, and you were selected by the
Braves 210th overall in the 7th round of the 2015 MLB draft? Do you remember what it was like
to answer the phone and know that you were that much closer to achieving your goal of
pitching in the MLB?
Patrick Weigel: What led me to that decision was I flat out was not ready. I wasn’t
mature enough as a pitcher to go out and compete at the highest levels. I just knew I needed
another year of coaching and innings to get my feet under me and continue to learn. I’m
grateful that the University of Houston gave me that opportunity to continue playing there. I
learned a lot from our pitching coach Frank Anderson, and I think the extra seasoning helped shape who I am as a player today.
I do think that decision paid off, but I think of it more in the long-term rather than immediately at the point I was drafted. At Houston, I had to learn how to pitch – and as a reliever – how to manage and get out of situations, how to dig deeper and get that extra gear. At Oxnard College, I was just a thrower who had decent stuff but no clue where it was going most of the time. I really think if I had signed at that point, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I remember that call and the awesome feelings with it. Every draft day, I think about it and how fortunate I was to receive that call. I was gathered with family at our home, and I just think about what a special day it was not only for myself but to share as a family.
Chase Pittman: According to Examining the Percentage of MLB Draft Picks Who Reach the
Major Leagues by Bleacher Report – a player taken in the 7th round of the MLB draft only has a
20% chance to make it to the show. It’s a grind and something you have to put all of
your focus into. Do you have much free time to relax and be a 24-year-old or is all of your
time taken up by training and practice?
Patrick Weigel: Most of my time taken in the off-season is for when I go back home to Houston
and hang out with my family and friends. I usually take a yearly trip out to California, where I
grew up, as well to see more family and friends. But I also have to train in the off-season and
often that’s where a lot of gains – both in the weight room and on the mound are made. So as
with all things, it’s about finding the right balance in life with so many things going on. I also enjoy
myself on the road during the season. I love traveling around and seeing different parts of the
country and what better way to do that than doing something I love. I’ve gotten to do some
cool things this year like go to Niagara Falls, see some of the military ships in Norfolk, among
other things in various cities. My time to be a 24-year-old is usually when I wake up in the
morning and have that time before I head to the yard.
Chase Pittman: Making it to the majors has been a goal of yours for a very long time.
You’ve clearly got the stuff to thrive in the big leagues with a 3.38 ERA so far this year in
Gwinnett and a 1.72 ERA during your time in Mississippi. Do you feel you are ready to face MLB
Patrick Weigel: I’ve always been told and brought up to be where your feet are. So right now,
I’m just focusing on what I’m doing here in Gwinnett and what I can do to make myself better
every day to be the most prepared I can be for when that opportunity comes. I know that
wherever I’m at, I have the confidence in myself to go out and compete.
Patrick Weigel will be displaying his talents in a Braves uniform before we know it. The ability to overcome adversity and the mastery he has shown with a baseball makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in Atlanta’s loaded farm system. It was a pleasure to learn more about Patrick and I, like most Braves fans, can’t wait for him to receive the call.