21. Sam Weatherly (247 points, 22 ballots)
The tenth Purple Row Prospect to be revealed is the ninth pitcher so far. Weatherly has terrific stuff that he is only beginning to harness, which means there’s quite a bit of uncertainty for the 23-year-old, 6’3” lefty. Furthermore, Weatherly was limited to just 11 2⁄3 innings in 2022 due to a strained left shoulder — yet another Rockies pitching prospect who was severely limited by injuries last year. This came after Weatherly’s 2021 season was ended prematurely by shoulder inflammation. In that 2021 season though, Weatherly had an excellent 12.5 K/9 rate and an improved 4.2 BB/9 rate out of the starting rotation.
In 2022, Weatherly ramped up to pitching after a Spring Training lat strain, but only made one ACL appearance and a short start in High-A Spokane in June before hitting the IL again. He then appeared in three August games for Colorado’s ACL affiliate, the last of which was August 13th.
Though he mostly faced much younger competition in a small sample size, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Weatherly struck out 23 batters with only two walks in 11 2⁄3 IP with a 3.86 ERA. The strikeout stuff is still there, but for a player with the development curve of Weatherly, 2022 seems like a lost opportunity for the Rockies to evaluate him out of the rotation.
Here’s a look at Weatherly from February of 2020 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
Fangraphs ranks Weatherly 13th in the system with a 40+ FV grade, which includes a 55 grade on the fastball and slider with a 50 on the curveball:
[Weatherly] he was Colorado’s best pitching prospect at 2020 instructs, where he was consistently sitting 95-97 mph, up to 98, and worked with a comfortably plus slider. Because Weatherly was in the bullpen as an underclassman, he had barely ever thrown a third pitch, and he only threw about a dozen changeups in all of 2020 at Clemson. In 2021, during an ultra-conservative assignment to Low-A, he started working with four pitches — fastball, slider, curveball, changeup — and was dominant for about two months even though he didn’t maintain the velo boost from the previous fall and was only sitting 93-94. He was shut down with shoulder inflammation in early August and didn’t pitch the rest of the year. Weatherly’s new curveball has sizable potential. It was spinning faster than his slider at a whopping 2850 rpm, but he only threw it about 7% of the time before the shoulder problem surfaced, less often than his changeup. Purely on his stuff’s potential, Weatherly arguably fits among the 45 FV tier, but he’s a little behind the developmental curve from a repertoire depth perspective and his shoulder issue adds to already-present relief risk. The Rockies should keep developing him as a starter, if only to increase the reps Weatherly gets with his new toy, but he’s much more likely to become an impact reliever.
Weatherly stands out for his pure stuff and his athleticism, to the point where the Rockies think he’s one of the best overall athletes in the entire system. The left-hander’s fastball touched 97 mph at instructs, but the high-spin heater sits more comfortably in the low 90s. His slider is his go-to pitch, a plus wipeout that gets both left- and right-handed hitters to swing and miss on a regular basis. He didn’t need his changeup much in college, especially when coming out of the bullpen, but it’s something he’s continued to work on to improve.
The left-hander has had trouble commanding the baseball at times, often because of timing issues with his delivery, which can be remedied. He’s smart to a fault on the mound, sometimes thinking too much rather than just trusting his stuff. The Rockies think he has all the ingredients to be a Robbie Ray-like starter, but also know that he could get big league hitters out in the bullpen right now, with a Josh Hader-type career.
Keith Law of the Athletic ranked Weatherly 7th in the system in February 2022:
Weatherly missed some time with scap soreness last year, but when he pitched, he showed a wipeout slider and big spin on a plus fastball, striking out 32.4 percent of batters in Low-A – which was probably too low for him as a 22-year-old product of a major college in Clemson. His delivery does not lend itself well to repetition and he has a hard time syncing it up from pitch to pitch, which might be the thing that keeps him from starting, but for pure starter upside he has the most of anyone in this system.
Weatherly started a bit in college and has a solid four pitch mix, but has always looked more like a power lefty reliever. His 92-95 mph heater and slider are plus and anything around 40-to-45 command should make him a big leaguer if he can keep that raw stuff.
Unfortunately there wasn’t more Sam Weatherly this year to evaluate, as he’s a fun pitcher to watch. Beyond that, he’ll be Rule 5 eligible after 2023 so the Rockies might really need to test him against upper level hitting as they ponder Weatherly’s 40-man roster status. More starter reps to this point would no doubt have been helpful in Colorado’s evaluation.
Fortunately, Weatherly’s multiple above average pitches should work in either a starting or relieving role if he can stay healthy and maintain acceptable command. I’m a believer in the stuff but a skeptic he’ll be able to stay both healthy and effective. Weatherly’s profile is an interesting contrast with PuRP 22 Victor Juarez — the polished teenager vs. the volatile, high octane 23-year-old.
The bottom line for me is if Weatherly can stick in the rotation, he’s a potential impact starter with a late inning reliever fallback who could be in the big leagues within two years, which obviously is a valuable profile. With an injury-shortened 2022 though, the starter role seems less likely to materialize, which led me to drop Weatherly down my list to 20th as a 40 FV player.