High draft picks in baseball often fail. Nevertheless, the fact that they were evaluated so highly never leaves them. Even when injuries or severe deficiencies prevent a player’s career from going anywhere, another team always wants to give him a look and see if they can recapture his potential. The chances of success are low, but the same is true of the risk. The Tampa Bay Rays saw Casey Weathers, a former 8th overall pick, out on the market and they decided to see whether he has anything left.
Weathers is not your average 8th overall pick in that he was always a reliever. He was a late-inning arm behind David Price at Vanderbilt and wound up being drafted just seven picks later. The Colorado Rockies saw a fireballer with a fastball touching 97 MPH and a sharp slider and could not pass him up. He was expected to zoom to the big leagues and emerge as a setup man or closer immediately. Instead, he underwent Tommy John Surgery after his first full season as a professional in 2008, and he has not been the same since. For his career, he has a 4.69 ERA and nearly as many walks as strikeouts while never cracking Triple-A, let alone the major leagues. He also has not thrown a single professional pitch since 2012, presumably because of more injuries. He will turn 29 years old next month, and his days as a prospect are over. The reason why Casey Weathers is still interesting, though, is his fastball movement.
It became evident once Weathers went pro that his fastball was actually more effective in the low-90’s than in the mid-90’s. When he threw it too hard, it straightened out and became much more hittable. When he took something off it and settled in at 92-93 MPH, however, he could give hitters fits with its late movement. Weathers has already proven that he can pitch at lower velocities, so it’s not an issue if he can’t touch the mid-90’s anymore. It says something that even as Weathers struggled mightily, he never allowed even 7.0 hits per 9 innings in a season. The tremendous movement came with a devastating trade-off: extreme difficulty with control. The good news, though, is that the Rays have already seen success with a pitcher in a similar situation, Alex Torres.
Torres is a lefty while Weathers is a righty, but his fastball was also in the 92-94 MPH range with a ton of late bite as he seemingly walked every batter he saw at Triple-A in 2012. Then the Rays were able to adjust his delivery and get him to break out last season. It is worth a try to see if the same thing works for Weathers. The worst-case scenario for the Rays after signing Casey Weathers is that they inked David Price’s ex-teammate and it didn’t amount to anything. If they’re lucky, the Torres fix will work again and they’ll have another relief option.