One of the bigger breakout performances from a prospect this season has been from 2015 draftee Patrick Weigel. Seen by many as a worthy gamble given his stuff and velocity coming out of Houston, Weigel not only has lived up to those optimistic expectations, he has exceeded them. Starting in low-A for most of the season and mostly dominating there, the Braves decided to move away from the cautious approach they had employed and moved him straight up to AA where he has continued to excel. In 25 games this season (149.2 innings) across two levels, Weigel has a 2.47 ERA while striking out 152 batters, walking 55 batters, and holding opposing batters to a .194 average against him.
Patrick features four pitches: fastball, curve, slider, and changeup with his fastball reaching the triple digits this season, his curve and slider are his breaking weapons with most observers (ourselves included) thinking the slider is the better of the two with tight break and has made batters look silly for most of the season, and a changeup that, while still a work in progress, has flashed potential throughout the season and could be an above average offering when he gains more consistency with it. Patrick took time out of his very busy schedule (between the playoff chase, being promoted, and playing baseball for a living....he has had a lot on his plate of late) to answer some questions for us. Enjoy!
Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Patrick. First, introduce yourself to Braves fans who may not be aware of you yet.
My name is Patrick Weigel and I was drafted in the 7th round in the 2015 draft out of University of Houston. I grew up in Southern California where I attended Saint Bonaventure High School as well as Oxnard College. I currently call Austin, Texas my home.
First, as a player growing up, did you play any other sports and were you always a pitcher when you were playing baseball?
Growing up, I played everything: baseball, basketball, football, soccer. I was even in a golf and bowling league. In baseball, I always would pitch some, but spent most of my time in the infield between 3B and 1B. I even caught in a couple games in high school. When I did get to high school, I played basketball and baseball all 4 years.
When you were in high school and college, clearly something clicked and baseball became something where you went from you were among the better players on your team probably to having tools that could lead you to being a professional baseball player. Tell us about when that started to happen and what changes that made in how seriously you took the game.
In my own my mind, I had always considered myself one of the better players in my local area, but I wouldn't say I really thought I had a chance until my senior year of high school where I started throwing exceptionally harder than I had been. Something just clicked in my maturity where I had this new found velocity. This is when I really thought I would have a shot at pursuing my dream. I started taking pitching seriously, started taking lessons that year, and really started to learn about arm care and the maintenance it takes to keep it healthy.
You had a really interesting college career that started at Pacific and eventually led you to Houston. What went into your college choices and, specifically, what were the biggest things you took away from your time in college baseball-wise?
Well, because I was a late bloomer in high school, I only had two offers from Division I universities. I actually had a verbal commitment to LMU, but late in the season, University of the Pacific came in with an offer of a substantially larger scholarship. So I ended up committing there and playing my freshman year there. For a variety of reasons, the school just wasn't a good fit for me. In order to stay eligible and play baseball for my sophomore year, I transferred to Oxnard College which was the local JuCo by my house. The coaching staff there was like family. My dad had grown up with them and my grandpa was involved with coaching them in various points throughout their lives. That year was probably the most fun I've ever had playing baseball. After a year of ups and downs there, I was much more heavily recruited, and ultimately chose University of Houston as where I wanted to be. Frank Anderson was our pitching coach and is very highly regarded in the college ranks. He helped me out tremendously from where I was when I came in. He was the main reason I chose the school but while I was there and still today, there's many more reasons why I have pride in UH and still plan on going back there eventually to finish my degree.
You got drafted out of Oxnard as a sophomore by the Brewers later in the draft so you were “aware of the process” for a couple of years at least. First, at what point in your baseball life did you think that baseball could be a career for you and secondly, when did you become aware that the Braves were interested in drafting you and how did you become aware of that?
The first time I really thought I could make a career out of baseball was my senior year of high school when the pro interest first started up. It peaked again during my time at Oxnard where I was taken late in the draft by the Brewers, but ultimately decided to go back to school to continue to develop. I didn't feel I was quite ready yet to make that jump. Then during my junior year, I knew that many teams were interested heading into the draft, but had no idea where I'd be taken. The Braves called me a couple picks before pick 210 and told me if I was there, that they would take me. And here I am. I can't put into words the feeling of seeing your name pop up on the screen. It was a very proud moment for my family and I.
The thing that really jumps out at first about you as a pitcher is your velocity nearing the 100 mph mark. Talk to us about your fastball in terms of how often you throw it, what adjustments you have made to it this year in your first full season of pro ball, etc.
I consider my fastball my best pitch and I throw it quite a bit. It's also the most important because all my offspeed has to play off of it. My biggest problem that leads to inconsistencies in my delivery is that I tend to get very rotational and my front side bails out. This leads to an inconsistent arm slot and release point which is the root of control issues I've had in the past. The main adjustment that we've worked on this year is staying strong with the front side and staying loaded on my back side to stay strong through the baseball with my momentum going towards home plate, as opposed to flying off to the side.
We should talk about your slider because it has been, a lot of the time anyways, an unfair pitch in that hitters have looked foolish. Sometimes it looks like a true slider and other times it is sort of “slurvy” and others it looks like it’s even more of a power curve with a lot of downward action. Is that are conscious decision to sort of morph the pitch batter to batter or do you have a specific goal for the pitch in terms of what you want it to be each time?
I actually throw both a curveball and a slider. And the different action I get on my slider just really has to do with whether my fingers are on top of the ball or slightly on the side. And my goal for the pitch has a lot to do with what I threw the batter the previous pitch and how he reacted to it (swing, take, etc.)
We have seen that you have been working on a changeup as you continue to pitch as a starter, how well has that been going for you and are you working on adding any other pitches?
My changeup has come a very long way from where it was in college. Just the repetition of throwing it everyday has made a huge difference in the confidence I have in it, as well as consistent feel for the pitch. I am not currently working on anymore pitches.
You were recently promoted to Mississippi (congrats again by the way). What has been the biggest change for you since the promotion? Has the preparation been different or is the level of attention on you much higher?
The biggest thing I've learned is just keeping things the same and staying present in the moment. The strike zone is a little tighter and the hitters are a little more selective, but other than that, it's the same game. I just try to focus on executing each pitch and not looking towards the next batter or the next inning, or dwelling in the past on pitches I wish I had back.
Which city has better food….Pearl or Rome? What is your favorite food there?
I'd say Pearl has more options for sure, before every start I have the same steak lunch. In Rome I'd go to Outback before every start, now that I'm in Mississippi you'll find me at Logan's Roadhouse before every start.
There are a lot of eyes on Mississippi right now with the success Ozzie Albies, Dustin Peterson, Max Povse, and Lucas Sims to name a few have had this season. What is it like to go from A-ball and sort of thrust into the middle of all of that especially in the wake of Dansby’s promotion?
The guys here have been awesome. They've all welcomed me from the time I got here. It's also nice from knowing a lot of them through various points of Instructs, Spring Training, and other various events we've been a part of. I'm just trying to do my part and help the ball club win as we continue this playoff push.
Given that the season is winding down, do you have any goals specifically in mind for 2017 and what is the biggest thing you need to do to achieve that goal?
My goal for 2017 is the same as it was for 2016 and that is to leave the season a better pitcher than when I came into it.
Is there anything else you want to say to Braves fans out there?
I'm extremely proud to be a part of this organization, and the future is very bright. I also want to thank all those who have reached out to me through Social Media as well as in person in my time in Danville, Rome, and Mississippi. I've met some amazing Braves fans and some amazing people in my short time here. The support does not go unnoticed and is truly appreciated. Go Braves!