Despite graduating many a young, talented prospect to the big leagues recently, the Braves still feature one of the best farm systems out there.
Sure, the system has lost some of its depth due to international sanctions, but they still feature two elite outfielder prospects in Drew Waters and Cristian Pache, two potential frontline starters in Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright, and a bright young backstop in Shea Langeliers. The Braves’ goal when they underwent their rebuild was to be able to construct a constant stream of talent down in the minors and to this point, they have done exactly that, and the new wave is here.
It is natural to wonder which Braves’ farmhand will get his next chance to shine. We have already gotten a taste of Kyle Wright and it seems likely we will see more in 2020. Waters, Pache, and Anderson will open up in Triple-A, but it is unlikely we will see them in the first half of the season, if at all this year. Langeliers may move quickly, but he was just drafted last season.
He may not be a headliner prospect, but right-handed pitcher Patrick Weigel appears to be next in line to debut, and it could be as soon as Opening Day. He has the potential to be a big part of the Braves’ bullpen plans in 2020. Don’t be mistaken by his prospect stock either. Weigel can pitch and has been very impressive this Spring Training.
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. If not for this operation, Weigel may have already established a role on this team, and at the very least, most definitely would have debuted by now.
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 Triple-A 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. This next time around, he should.
Weigel’s time is near. With Jacob Webb being sent down to the minors, there are two bullpen spots available and he has been among the most impressive candidates. If his usage this spring is any indication, the Braves could have big plans for him in 2020. In five outings, Weigel has given up just two hits and no earned runs to go with six strikeouts. He was been lights out, and his stuff looks just as nice as the stat sheet indicates, primarily his offspeed offerings. Weigel has a legit four-pitch mix with his fastball sitting around 94 mph and the ability to touch 97-98. I think his best is his curveball, which he actually has two different versions of. He has an excellent changeup and slider as well.
Though Weigel has come through the system as a starter, I can also see why his curveball may play a bit better in relief, and obviously, it is best to play things safe in a return from Tommy John. The Braves slowly but surely raised his innings limit down in Gwinnett but the team has other options for now in the rotation.
Weigel is 25 and it seems his time may be now. The primary thing for him to work on will be his command. My guess is he earns one of the Opening Day bullpen spots.