Amongst the vast depths of the Braves pitching prospect sits the rarely talked about Patrick Weigel.
Weigel was a 7th round pick in the 2015 draft and quickly became a riser on Braves’ prospect lists. As a 21-year old, he dominated for the Rome Braves, going 10-4 with a 2.51 ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning. Before his first full professional season was even finished, the 6’6″, 240-pound right-hander was already at AA Mississipi – where he began his 2017 campaign.
Like in Rome, Weigel made slight work of his competition, continuing to strike out batters at a high rate and keeping his walk numbers at a career-low. The results were a 3-0 record with a 2.89 ERA in seven starts. Less than two years into his major league career, the 22-year old headed to AAA Gwinnett.
Gwinett is where the problems began, and I’m not talking about on the mound. After a June start in which Weigel was roughed up a bit, he began to feel lingering soreness in his elbow. An MRI would later confirm the worst; Weigel needed Tommy John Surgery.
Usually, the surgery requires anywhere from 12-14 months to recover. Not shockingly, the Braves chose to take caution with their young arm, and sixteen months later, he was on the mound again in a professional game.
Weigel appeared in the Gulf Coast League four times in October of last year, allowing no runs and striking out eight in six innings of work. But even after quality showings, Weigel admitted he didn’t feel like his true-self until his last two appearances for the Braves fall instructional league.
“I wouldn’t say I was hesitant (in Gulf Coast League outings), but it’s like trying to not do too much, I guess. You’re still kind of scared to fully let it go and get out there,” Weigel said. “Those last two games at instructs it was like, ‘Alright, from my testing period I’ve got about eight innings under my belt, now it’s time to go out and just let it loose and see what I can do.’”
Most of Weigel’s work this offseason has been focused on his mechanics, and he says the changes in his arm action is already paying major dividends, “I feel like it’s coming out way cleaner. I’m not nearly as sore anymore.”
Now, Weigel hopes those changes will lead to more success as he prepares for his first season since 2017. He will likely begin the year in AAA, along with a number of talented prospects nipping at the bit to join the major league squad. Once a borderline top ten prospect, Weigel now sits as the 21st ranked prospect according to MLB.com. But if he picks up where he left off in 2017, it won’t take long for the Braves to give him an opportunity at the big league level.
The University of Houston product has the body type and stuff of a pitcher that can lead a rotation. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and he can crank it up to about 98 when he really wants to. He follows that up with a slider that has turned into his go-to secondary pitch. It has a lot more drop on it than a typical slider to go along with its right to left movement, sitting in the mid-80s and can be unhittable when it’s working. Weigel’s repertoire also features a developing slow arching curveball in the mid-70s – quite a drop off from his mid-90s fastball – and a changeup.
It’s an exciting time for both Weigel and the organization as he preps for spring training. Results often vary from subject to subject regarding success after Tommy John Surgery, but the Braves are hopeful he can become an integral part – either in the rotation or the bullpen – as soon as this year.