Patrick Weigel Once Again On The Cusp Of The Majors
The Braves have seen plenty of breakout prospects over the past couple of years, and while the team was ushering in arm after arm during its 2018 postseason run, one of its once coveted pieces remained sidelined.
Patrick Weigel dominated in Double-A, earning a promotion to Triple-A in May 2017 that put him within grasp of his MLB debut. Then, an MRI revealed two tears in his ulnar collateral ligament, including one which stemmed from years before, that necessitated shutting him down. Once poised for his MLB debut, he underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2017 and spent the next 13 months recovering. The Braves have played it extremely conservative with Weigel this season, and his early returns have been encouraging.
Now 24, Weigel earned a 1.72 ERA with 16 strikeouts against nine walks over seven games with Double-A Mississippi. He was yet again promoted to Triple-A earlier in May, again putting him on the footsteps of the majors. His starts have hovered around three innings, or the 50-pitch mark, as the organization lets him slowly re-integrate.
"I hadn’t seen him, but what we’d heard about him, how he’s fully healthy—but again, he’d missed a significant amount of time, so we’re going to be careful,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before the season. "He’s full-go. He’s ready to go. We’ll take it easy with him as we get him going, amped up.”
Weigel’s velocity is back in the mid- to upper 90s. He needs to cut down on the walks, but there’s been plenty reason to be optimistic during his brief outings. If he continues this trajectory, the Braves could certainly plug the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Weigel—who’s already on the 40-man roster—into their bullpen sometime later this summer.
He appeared in just two spring training games, but Snitker brought Weigel up unprompted several times, mentioning how the physically imposing righty could factor into their plans down the line. Given the revolving door that is the team’s bullpen, a healthy Weigel’s debut feels inevitable.
That’d be quite a comeback after the California native saw his dream ripped away, triggering a year of rigorous rehab while his peers made their own debuts. But as he grows closer to recapturing the promise that made him the organizational minor league pitcher of the year in 2016, so does the reality of him contributing at the highest level.
— Hard-throwing righthander Huascar Ynoa was simultaneously promoted to Triple-A with Weigel. Also on the 40-man roster, Ynoa made three starts with high Class A Florida and only six appearances with Double-A Mississippi before getting another promotion. Ynoa sits in the mid- to upper 90s with a swing-and-miss slider, making him an obvious relief candidate if he performs well. He needs to cut down on contact allowed, but Ynoa’s repertoire makes him intriguing. The Braves acquired Ynoa from Minnesota in 2017 as part of the Jaime Garcia trade.
— Righthander Ian Anderson, who entered the season as the Braves' No. 1 pitching prospect, is off to a mediocre start in Double-A. He’s walked 28 batters in 35.2 innings, though the strikeouts (47) and opponent average (.200) is more positive.
— Less-heralded lefty Joey Wentz has struggled in Double-A, allowing 29 hits and walking 17 batters in 30 innings. He did carry a no-hitter into the seventh inning in an early May start, but Wentz’s lacking velocity needs to be compensated by pinpoint command (especially with his changeup)—an inconsistent area thus far through seven games.