The Rome Braves employed a stellar rotation to win the South Atlantic League championship in 2016. Among those arms was Patrick Weigel, who earned organizational pitcher of the year honors and a promotion to Double-A Mississippi late in the season. I caught up with Weigel at the Rome Braves Hot Stove gathering over the weekend to discuss his development, his talented rotation mates and what the future holds for this organization. You can read more about Patrick Weigel and the rest of the Rome rotation in my Braves’ Top 30 Prospects.
Grant McAuley: You started off as part of a team in Rome that did some special things, but you got an opportunity to answer another challenge in your career up in Double-A. How would you sum up the 2016 season?
Patrick Weigel: “Very, very blessed. Here in Rome throughout the year, we had a really close-knit team and pitching staff. Sitting up in the stands and charting every day, I got to watch [Mike] Soroka, [Kolby] Allard, [Max] Fried, Touki [Toussaint] and [Ricardo] Sanchez, all of them go to work every day. It was a lot of fun. We came around in the second half, so it was a little bittersweet in August when I got called up. You grow these bonds with these guys and it’s a special team, but also it’s very exciting to advance your career. When I was in Mississippi, I’d be in the clubhouse checking how Rome was doing or texting guys after the games and seeing what’s up. It was awesome following them to see them finish the job.”
GM: You mentioned sitting in the stands and charting. For people that may not be aware of that part of minor league life, the other starting pitchers are in the stands keeping tabs on what that night’s starting pitcher is doing. Is that a beneficial thing in some ways, when you watch different guys having success? Are there things you can roll into your game plan?
PW: “Absolutely. There are certain things for sure. Fried is going to pitch differently than I am because he’s a left-hander, but I’d watch Soroka and see how he attacks guys. We have kind of the same movement on our fastballs – but he has a little more than I do [laughs]. But the way he attacks guys with the fastball, changes speeds, mixes his off-speed, you can take away things from that and kind of implement it into what I’m going to do the next day. Everyone did well this entire season. They kind of set the bar [each night] and just being a competitor you want to do better than that. I think we just kept building on that and building on that. We had a really special staff this year.”
GM: Going into 2017, a lot of new and exciting things are happening for the Braves. You guys will get a new set of challenges and the big league club will be moving into a new park. There’s just a lot of good things going on. How exciting is it to be a part of an organization that really is turning heads around baseball with the young talent that’s been brought in and the excitement that’s building for the future of this team?
PW: “It’s very exciting. I mean, the talent at every level, up and down this system, is special. The Braves are on the rise and we’re looking forward to special things in the coming years.”
GM: As you look forward to your 2017 personally, I mentioned that new set of challenges are coming for you. That includes a chance to go to big league camp among other things. How did you prepare for this season, especially after getting to skip a level last year? What did you take out of that brief time in Mississippi in terms of turning that experience into something good for this year?
PW: “I went into the off-season and took maybe a week or two and just relaxed, let go a little bit and enjoyed being home with my family. Then I actually went out to Houston and have been working out at DST (Dynamic Sports Training). I’ve had a great off-season with them. As far as things I can take away from my experience in Mississippi last year, going up that level, it’s the same game but just a little more challenging. The hitters have a better idea what they’re doing. The strike zone is a little tighter, umpires are more consistent and there are more nuances in the game that are exposed at that level. I’ve been trying to pick up on those things, getting my body right and my mind right for the coming season.”
My prospect profile for Patrick Weigel (No. 20 in my Top 30 Braves Prospects):
Patrick Weigel | RHP | Age: 22 | Acquired: 7th Round, 2015 | ETA: 2018
Despite being in a system heavy on pitching prospects, Patrick Weigel did not have to worry about getting lost in the shuffle in 2016. Quite the opposite happened to the lanky, hard-thrower as he went from off the radar to Double-A by season’s end. Weigel was named Atlanta’s organizational pitcher of the year after turning in an 11-6 campaign with a 2.47 ERA and 55BB/152K in 149.2 IP. Standing 6’6” and blessed with mid-90s heat that can approach 100 mph at times, Weigel seemed to put everything together last season after serving as a reliever with the University of Houston, his third collegiate stop. He improved his delivery as the year went on with repeatability being the main focus. He does an excellent job of keeping the ball in the park – 11 HR allowed in 201.1 IP in his career. More to the point, Weigel limits the number of base hits in general, yielding just 101 of those for a paltry .194 opponents average last season.
Winning that pitcher of the year award is high praise in an organization that has as much depth as the Braves do. Weigel finished second in the system in strikeouts and ERA while leading all Atlanta minor leaguers in innings pitched. He was arguably the best pitcher in a Rome rotation that was absolutely loaded with talent. He led the team in wins, ERA and strikeouts prior to skipping High-A and continuing his fine work for the Mississippi club. Command is still a work in progress at times, but Weigel boasts a four-pitch mix that includes an excellent fastball, a slider, a slow curve and a changeup. With that kind of arsenal, it’s no wonder he had South Atlantic League hitters all tied up. Given his age and the fact he got a taste of the Southern League last year, it makes sense for Weigel to skip High-A altogether and begin 2017 with Mississippi.