The Cardinals have continuously turned to their farm system as they fight to remain in the National League playoff race. Alex Reyes, their top prospect, received his call to the show yesterday, making his big league debut in the top of the ninth (he retired all three batters he faced). Luke Weaver, arguably the team's second-best prospect, is on his way, as well - he's set to start on Saturday in Wrigley Field in place of the injured Michael Wacha. Here is what Jason Hunt had to say about Weaver in our top-ten Cardinals prospects piece:
Weaver's 2015 season jumps off the page, as the FSU product cruised to a 1.62 ERA in 105.1 IP at High-A. He made headlines for his Summer dominance, as well, allowing only 6 ER in his last eleven starts, good for a 0.82 ERA from July 5 through the end of the season. Weaver features two above-average to plus pitches in his low to mid-90s fastball and change-up, and has shown promise with his curveball. And, as his low walk rate would suggest, he has excellent command and control. He's on the thin side (6'2" and only 170 pounds), which makes some worry about his durability, but he has clean, repeatable mechanics, and he's very athletic. Weaver profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter, with a bit more upside if his curve turns into a true weapon.
The soon to be 23-year-old missed the first two months of the season with a fracture in his non-throwing arm. He made his first start of the season on June 5 (his Double-A debut) tossing 7.1 IP, allowing 5 H, 0 R, and 0 BB, while striking out 10. In twelve starts at the level, he pitched to the following line - 77.0 IP, 63 H, 10 BB, 88 K, 1.40 ERA, 0.95 WHIP. He made his Triple-A debut this weekend, and it was more of the same as he allowed just two hits and two walks in 6 IP, striking out 4. Weaver has been dominant at every level in the minors and, despite his lack of exposure at Triple-A, it seemed a mere matter of time before he forced the Cardinals hand.
It is not surprising that Weaver has plowed through the minors (though few expected him to be this brilliant), as he sports plus to plus-plus command and control, and two above-average to plus offerings in his fastball and change-up. His ability to keep lesser hitters off-balance is truly a sight to see, and it bodes well for his future. That being said, Weaver's lack of premium velocity (he's been 92-94 this year, albeit with good movement) and fringe average at best curveball will make life in the Majors much more difficult.
I generally attempt to avoid comparisons, as they are oftentimes lazy and misleading, but Luke Weaver has reminded me of the aforementioned Wacha for well over a year now. Despite the five or six inch difference in height, both pitchers rely on similar stuff, and have similar approaches on the mound. Wacha has seen his performance waver as his curveball comes and goes, and I could see that occurring with Weaver, as well. Wacha's size does allow him to get downward plane more often than Weaver, but Weaver's command profile makes up that gap a bit.
At this point, it is up in the air whether Wacha will be back this year. As such, I suspect that Weaver has a reasonable chance to stick in the rotation for the next eight weeks. It is difficult to foresee him racking up strikeouts at such a prodigious rate in the Majors, but I do think he can be a competent pitcher immediately. He should be a solid streaming option going forward, if not a bit more.