Luke Weaver, NY Yankee

Luke Weaver with another K.

Yankee management has done such a good job picking up players out of nowhere who do well for NY, that you give them the benefit of the doubt when they pick up another.

And so it was with Luke Weaver, who the Yanks picked up a few days ago, after Seattle released him on Sept 12, 2023, and that after Cincinnati released him earlier this year. Luke Weaver who as of Sept 15, 2023 has the highest ERA amongst starters in MLB — 6.87 in 97 innings for Cincinnati and 6.08 in 13 innings for Seattle.

One might have thought NY picked him up to pitch some innings out of the pen, but Yank management threw everyone a curveball as Weaver was announced as the starter for a game against the Pirates on Saturday, Sept 16th — the Yankees in the middle of an improbable last-minute playoff run — 6.5 games behind the Wild Card with 14 games to play.

It was as if Yankee management is trying to make a magical late-season playoff run as incredible as it can be.

“I never thought I’d be a Yankee honestly,” said Weaver after his 1st Yankee start. “So it’s pretty cool.”

Not Related to Jeff or Jered

Luke Weaver is the first Yankee Weaver since Jeff Weaver and is no relation to him or his brother Jered Weaver. Luke Weaver was a 1st round pick in the 2014 draft by St Louis (#27 overall). He’s a skinny, 6’2 righthander who is now 29 years old.

Weaver Made MLB Top 100 Prospect List in 2017

In 2017, MLB ranked him in their Top 100 Prospects list, as the #68 overall prospect in baseball. Ironically, Luis Ortiz — the Pittsburgh starter he faced in this game — was #62. That 2017 list included the following Yankees:

A Good Rookie Season for St Louis in 2017

Weaver had a great rookie season — 7-2 3.88 — for St Louis in 2017, and then went 7-11 4.95 for St Louis in his first full year as a starter in 2018.

Marque Player in Goldschmidt Trade

In December, 2018, Weaver was the marque player traded by St Louis to Arizona, along with 2 other prospects, for Paul Goldschmidt.

Weaver had a good first year for Arizona — 4-3 2.94 — but missed 4 months (May to September) with a forearm strain. Then came COVID — when he led the NL in losses in 2020 (1-9 6.58) and he’s bounced around since then — to Kansas City for 2022, and then Cincinnati and Seattle this year.

Weaver’s 1st Start as a Yankee

And so there was Luke Weaver on the mound starting for the Yanks against the Pirates on Saturday night, Sept 16. The Yankees got him 3 runs in the top of the 1st.

And then Weaver immediately got PELTED.

He walked the 1st batter and then surrendered a BOMB to right by Ryan Reynolds for a 3-2 game. An infield single, strikeout, and a walk followed.

But Weaver struck out the last 2 batters to escape the 1st inning.

The 2nd began with a BOOMING double, as did the 3rd inning — but Weaver hung tough — striking out more guys.

The leadoff double in the 3rd led to a run on a sac fly to make it 4-3, but by the 4th Weaver was rolling — finishing with 7 K’s before handing off to Jhony Brito — which was the plan all along: Weaver for 3 or 4 innings, and then to Brito.

Weaver’s Take

“Like any 1st inning I get a little over anxious, a little bit of adrenaline gets the best of me sometimes, but just try to settle in after that,” said Weaver afterwards.

When asked how he slows it down, he said “Breathing always works, instead of hyperventilating. Really just internal clock — taking a step back, having something to look at; getting in line with the catcher — getting that eye contact. Maybe it’s just a pitch that gets you back into a count that clicks. After you get through that 1st, you have time to recollect and then you go out there and feel like you’ve settled into the game.”

Weaver’s line in his first start with the Yankees — 4 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs, a homer, 7 K’s — his ERA actually went higher to 6.67 — but he did his job and did it pretty well.

“He struggled a little bit in that 1st inning,” said manager Aaron Boone. “But I thought after that he navigated well. He used everything — his changeup, his cutter, his four-seamer — had to make some pitches to limit some damage, and was able to do that and gave us what we needed to get the ball there to the middle innings.”

Weaver’s Pitches

Weaver’s four-seam fastball clocks 92-94 MPH, but it seems to have a lot of life. He throws an 89-MPH cutter and an 86-MPH change up.

The Plan

With the Yankees down so many starters and relievers — Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Keynan Middleton, Albert Abreu, and Ryan Webber all out for the rest of the year — the plan seems to be that Weaver will start and try to give the Yanks 3 or 4 innings, and hand off to Jhony Brito who has been ok as a starter, but brilliant as a middle-inning reliever. Brito as a starter this season is 3-6 6.32, but as a reliever is 5-1 1.24. [Brito stats courtesy]

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