Patrick Weigel was well on his way to being the next man up for the Braves back in 2017. A seventh-round pick who had risen through the system like no other, he was just a year removed from being named the Braves’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Unfortunately, it was at that time that he received the news no pitcher ever wants to hear: he was to undergo Tommy John Surgery with Dr. James Andrews.
In an interview with our very own Chase Pittman, Weigel shined some light on his recovery:
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.
By the time Weigel made his return, he had become almost a forgotten name of sorts in a deep Braves’ farm system. He did make a handful of appearances with the GCL Braves in late 2018 but returned last season at full strength. Weigel was quick to remind the organization that he has a lot to offer, making a joke of AA hitting upon his return, posting a 1.72 ERA in seven starts for Mississippi, and was exceptional when promoted back to AAA Gwinnett, recording a 2.98 ERA in 21 outings (11 starts). Weigel even received a brief promotion to the big leagues, but unfortunately, did not make an appearance.
If his call up is any indication though, Weigel’s time is near. He should receive a crack at the bullpen — at the very least — as injuries or struggles are likely to occur throughout the season. If Will Smith were not the only lefty reliever locked into the ‘pen, I would go as far as to call Weigel the favorite for the last spot, but the Braves will likely want to have another southpaw, so Grant Dayton has a fantastic chance to win that job, or perhaps even A.J. Minter. Weigel lacks the MLB experience, but he has been impressive this Spring Training though, giving up just one hit and one walk in four innings pitched.
That is a microscopic sample size, but what has been eye-popping about Weigel is his stuff, primarily his offspeed offerings, which is one reason he could be better off as a starter down the road — he has a legit four-pitch mix. I think his best is his curveball, which he actually has two different versions of. He has an excellent changeup and slider as well.
With that being said, I can also see why his curveball may play a bit better in relief, and obviously, Weigel is still in the late stages of recovery from Tommy John. The Braves slowly but surely raised his innings limit down in Gwinnett but would like to see him stretched out a bit longer, and the team has other options for now in the rotation.
Weigel is 25 and should already be in the big leagues if not for the injury. It may be in the Braves’ best interest to keep him down on the farm so he can receive some extra reps, but it seems he is about at full health and looks terrific this spring. The primary thing for him to work on will be his command. My guess is he serves as one of the first call ups out of the bullpen this season, and he is a prospect who can make an impact late in the year.
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