We can sum up one of the most exciting elements from last year’s truncated season in a single word: prospects.
The totality of call-ups was shocking as 212 players made their major league debut in 2020. Among the chosen was San Diego Padres left-hander Ryan Weathers, who the team selected in 2018 with the seventh overall pick.
Weathers hails from Loretto High School in Tennessee. According to Baseball-Reference, he is only the second player in history from his alma mater, the first being a catcher drafted in 1967 by the Washington Senators. To say it’s a big deal for Weathers as well as Loretto is an understatement.
Weathers began his rookie ball career before moving up the ladder to Fort Wayne, the Padres’ Class-A affiliate. In a small sample size of just shy of 10 total innings in the Arizona League, Weathers posted a respectable 3.86 ERA. Following the jump to Fort Wayne in the same year, the now 21-year-old improved nearly every aspect of his game.
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In his first go-around, Weathers posted a 3.00 ERA, 1.82 FIP and 2.50 xFIP. He did it while playing nearly four years below his age curve. The 2019 season proved much of the same. His numbers evened out slightly relative to his 22 starts. However, the strikeout numbers and consistently low walk rate were still unvarying.
Padres like what they see in Ryan Weathers
Weathers technically did not qualify on a list amongst the youngest starting pitchers in postseason history because, well, he did not make his major league debut as a starting pitcher. Still, for the sake of argument, Weathers would’ve fallen in line third on the list at 20 years, 296 days. Only Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urías and former Kansas City Royals starter Bret Saberhagen were younger.
In the opening innings of the National League Division Series, starter Mike Clevinger dealt with elbow inflammation leading to an early exit. Accordingly, the Padres went to the pen to mitigate a potent Los Angeles offense. Among the shuffle was Weathers.
Before his debut, Weathers had never pitched above Class-A. His work during summer camp and efforts to improve while at the alternate site proved useful. The fastball velocity jumped considerably, from low-90’s to upwards of 97 MPH, sitting consistently in the mid-90s. His overall feel for the strike zone is strong and will continue to improve as he progresses. Weathers also possesses what should be considered an above-average slider and changeup.
Weathers worked 1 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball, including a strikeout of Cody Bellinger. Not a bad start for a career. Regarding the upcoming 2021 season, Weathers will begin in the minors, most likely at Fort Wayne, who is now the Class-A Advanced affiliate.
In Baseball America’s scouting report (subscription required), Weathers has been internally compared to Toronto Blue Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. The upcoming season will be vital as they come as it would give Weathers an opportunity to prove himself over a full year. Improving upon what he has already accomplished could put him on a fast track to the big leagues by 2022.