Arizona Diamondbacks: Meet Luke Weaver
By TC Zencka
New Arizona Diamondbacks righty Luke Weaver has an impossible job as the most accomplished piece in the Paul Goldschmidt trade – but count Venom Strikes among the Weaver believers.
Fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks don’t want to meet Luke Weaver right now. It’s not really Luke Weaver time. Soon it will be, but right now it’s too soon.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are going through a breakup.
There’s other fish in the sea, they say, but platitudes hold no water here. No amount of assuaging can soothe the feelings of hurt and loss. Sure, there might be other fish in the sea, but you don’t want those fish: you want your fish.
You want Paul Goldschmidt.
Sadly, the one person who can’t help Arizona move past the Paul Goldschmidt era…is Paul Goldschmidt. Luckily, there are a few new faces in Arizona brought in specifically to jumpstart the next era of Diamondbacks baseball, one of whom is the man at the center the package sent to the desert from St. Louis: Luke Weaver.
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It’s time to become a Weaver believer. The 6’2″ righty may only be a rebound – the nearest pretty face to distract from the pangs of loss – but he’s our rebound now. He’ll need to be a comfort, especially, to owner Ken Kendrick and GM Mike Hazen, who must realize Weaver’s potential as one of the few draws left for Diamondbacks fans in 2019 season – if there are any left.
Weaver is not a replacement for Goldschmidt, nor will be Kevin Cron or Pavin Smith or whoever officially takes over at first base. There can be no replacement for Goldy.
Let’s say, instead, that Weaver, Carson Kelly and Andy Young are something better than a rebound: let’s say they are the circle of friends who will take the Diamondbacks out for a night of stress-free carousing when they need it most. They are the friends to keep the Diamondbacks afloat and help them find their groove again. Those are good friends.
But can they play?
Meet Luke Weaver
It’s not totally fair to call Weaver the centerpiece of this deal, but he is the most accomplished of the new Diamondbacks. He turns 26 in August, and as he enters his second full season in the majors, there’s reason to believe Weaver is embarking on his prime.
Weaver throws basically four pitches with heavy reliance on changing speeds. His fastball sits at 93.7 mph and he threw it 57.6% of the time last season, per statcast. That’s high fastball usage for sure, but not uncommon for a young pitcher.
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His changeup is a solid second offering when he keeps it low in the zone, but when he leaves it up…well, changeups aren’t meant for the upper part of the zone.
It was a killer pitch for Weaver in 2017, but even though hitters’ swing-and-miss percentage increased against the change this season, the connections were more impactful. Opponents slugged .467 against the changeup in 2018 after slugging only .253 in 2017.
An effective third pitch would go a long way in generating more swings and misses by allowing Weaver to reestablish his fastball, and thereby reestablish the change. He throws a cutter that showed real progress this year, but only throws it 4.2% of the time, mostly running away from right-handers, though he’s not afraid to bury it inside against lefties.
His curveball was utilized more often, but with less effectiveness. If he can further develop one or both of these pitches, which is wholly possible for a young pitcher, there’s good reason to think Weaver can develop into a mid-rotation starter or better down the road. Right now, he slots into the #4 spot of the Diamondbacks rotation, where he should have a longer leash than he would have been afforded in St. Louis.
The dream here is that Weaver turns into an above-average #3 starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks, maybe a la peak Ian Kennedy, but the reality is that right now he is a below-average #4 starter, a la Ian Kennedy. He won’t win a gold glove at first base, or a silver slugger, he won’t finish Top-3 in MVP voting for the Diamondbacks – but neither will Paul Goldschmidt.